Using B.Green to create pollinator highways in Tallinn

As part of the B.Green project this case study used the B.Green handbook to create a pollinator highway
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B.Green Handbook written in white text on a bright green background
Is Tallinn Green Enough?

This case study is part of the SEI Urban Toolbox for Liveable Cities which has been developed by the SEI Initiative on City Health and Wellbeing. The Urban Toolbox is a collection of tools, developed within SEI or in coordination with SEI, aimed at supporting planning and decision-making for improving the health, well-being and resilience of city residents and urban systems more broadly.

This case study demonstrates how the B.Green Handbook can be used to share information.

Summary

This project used the B.Green handbook to share information and build pollinator highways, bee borders, community gardens, and weather sensor networks.

Pollinator Highway Project

The underground placement of a high-voltage transmission line has cleared the way for a green corridor traversing the western half of Tallinn. A pollinator highway, or Putukaväil, has been designed to go through six of the eight city districts.

Pollinator highways are intended for bees, butterflies and other pollinating creatures to have a safe place to travel from one area to another. With growing cities leading to decreases in wetlands, meadows, and forests due to urban expansion and industry, it is necessary to preserve native plant corridors for these insects and animals so they can continue to carry out their work. These ecological pathways can exist in many forms that connect to each other, such as gardens, pastures, and even planter boxes. Ways to strengthen these pathways include habitat restoration, vegetation maintenance, and the addition of larger plants (e.g. shrubs) that allow pollinators to nest or shelter from inclement weather.

The Putukaväil pollinator highway will comprise two sections: a 3-km pilot section, completed in Summer 2020, and the second section, which will span an additional 10 km and is currently under construction. The pilot section, known as Putukaväil 1.0, winds through part of Põhja-Tallinn district. (A pre-pilot Baltic Urban Lab section is 1 km and traverses Põhja-Tallinn and a small portion of Kesklinn district.)

A notable aspect of this highway is its intent to blend conservation efforts and urban life, with interactive exhibits and art installations along the way. There are also several unique features of Putukaväil, including bee borders, community gardens, and a climate sensor network, that enhance the site for human and animal visitors alike.

Bee Borders

Bee Borders are biodiverse flowerbeds consisting of grasses, native plants and nectar-rich perennials. Some important considerations that went into the creation of Bee Borders was the desire to create edge communities for pollinating species, especially one with enough plant diversity to accommodate pollinators moving at different speeds. Spatial connections played a role to encourage travel along the pollinator highway from start to finish.

On Putukaväil, six Bee Borders where the pollinator pathway intersects with city streets. They are roughly equidistant from each other (2 to 3 km apart). The locations of these Bee Borders are at Pelgu lane and Kõrgepinge / Tuuliku / Ehitajate / Järveotsa / Vääna streets and were chosen because they were busier streets that experienced more foot and vehicle traffic.

Community / Allotment Gardens

Involving the public through community gardens is another intention of Putukaväil. There are already several in the vicinity of the pollinator highway, such as the Pelgu Community Garden near the beginning of the trail.

Educational and pragmatic at once, community gardens allow groups of people to farm a piece of land to grow produce. It is also a meaningful way to form bonds within a neighborhood. While vegetables are a popular option, flowers and fruit trees are possibilities as well. Having community or allotment gardens off Putukaväil will incorporate horticultural opportunities with access to nature and a social outlet.

Weather Sensor Network

A data analytics component has been added to strengthen the capabilities of Putukaväil beyond ecology and environmental planning. Weather sensors have been installed at street lamp posts to measure temperature, precipitation, and relative humidity, and to compare data collected between the pollinator highway and more urban settings to get a more precise picture of Tallinns city climate.

The sensors were installed 3.5 meters from the ground. The sensor units consist of two main components – a larger precipitation gauge and a smaller screen housing the combined temperature / humidity sensor.

Incorporating smart city tools can help integrate green infrastructure with urban planning. The presence of a weather sensor network will help determine the effects of green corridors on microclimates in Tallinn and assist city planners in the Baltic region with future mitigation efforts.

Conclusion

The Putukaväil is an excellent example of green infrastructure that has the potential to connect the city. A linear park going through previously underutilized sections of Tallinn can revitalize neighborhoods and attract pollinators, providing them with a safe haven.

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