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Danyadara’s Biodiversity

If we go back in history we might find that our current modern understanding of the world makes a very clear distinction between what belongs to society and what to nature. However, this vision seems to be short-sighted to tackle in any sensible way the issues we are facing in relation to climate change. In this article, I am going to tell you how Danyadara (a non-profit organization and unintentional community) in the south of Spain is fighting against desertification and contributing to closing the illusory gap between society and nature.

We have all marvelled at the beauty of the landscapes, and many of us melt in front of the cuteness of the pets. In short, we notice the presence of the biggest landscape elements – like trees – and the animals or insects that are in the closest and most direct relationship with us – dogs, cats, horses, and maybe the wasps that circle around us in summer. But what about the really tiny beings, the ones that are living on the trunk of the trees, under the leaves of the vegetables we grow, or between the blades of grass? You know, the ones that are just big enough to be seen by the human eye, like aphids, sowbugs, locusts…

Every ecosystem, every biome and the whole planet Earth has its own diversity level of different life forms. We call it biodiversity. And it is a result of a constant continuation of evolution on this planet in which we take part as being the participants and whether we like it or not, we have an influence on it.

Danyadara soil recovery

According to government figures, two-thirds of the country could be affected by an imminent desertification process. As residents and dependents of this land, we needed to do something about it. Six years ago we started a lifetime project to increase the biodiversity of the soil and bring back the Mediterranean forest to this land using permaculture as a framework. We aim that our 20-hectare property will continue to be a laboratory and inspirational source for others who want to face directly the negative consequences of climate change.

The story we want to tell is about the visible and invisible threads making these beings and us an interdependent community sharing a common world. 

A 20 hectares piece of land in the Cadiz region, in the southern part of Spain. It is a place with a long story. Before being transformed into a sustainable yoga retreat centre a decade ago, the land used to be a production site for hay, straw, and olive oil. Like in most places in the area, this production was based on an intensive production-driven model leading to a progressive impoverishment of soils and ecosystems. Sadly, the poorer the soil is, and the less diverse fauna and flora are, the more vulnerable the environment is to face the harshness of climate change, which leads to an even more fragile environment. 

What we want to do here, and what we are moving towards every day, is to break this vicious circle. In Danyadara, we aim at reversing desertification and recreating resilient ecosystems, based on reforestation efforts and the use of regenerative agriculture methods.

Our Research

What is the idea?

Cherishing this magnificent land, nestled in the Andalusian hills, we want to be caregivers, humble residents passing through, and not “exploiters”. This implies, among other things, understanding that we are just part of a bigger whole, and giving full attention to the other beings living here, and to the ways we are intertwined. 

What we found?

We found ants, crickets, flies, beetles, earwigs, and some seventy sowbugs in one of the 100 traps we set up in the olive groves, the gardens, and the reforestation area to analyze the current state of biodiversity in our land.

What we did?

One of our actions was to analyze the current state of biodiversity in our land of the reforestation area. In July 2022 we started to set traps to collect samples that allow us to measure how many creatures and which species are present on the soil. This gives us precious information about the health of the soil. 

    Any conclussion?

    This first year we found over 14 thousand individuals. We classified them into the order of biological level for convenience (we apologise in advance for this rigid understanding of life). The graphic you are seeing now shows the abundance of each order. The biggest population is Isopoda (mainly woodlies), followed by Formicidae (mainly ants) and Diptera (mainly flies). As you can see we humans are not even the 1 percent of the whole population holding together this piece of land.

    To measure the biodiversity on our land we divided the abundance of individuals by the number of different biological orders found on each site. This gave us a number between 0 and 1. Using this index, numbers closer to 0 indicate low biodiversity while numbers closer to 1 indicate high biodiversity.

    The information is also a great tool to monitor our efforts towards regenerating the land: the data collected can be compared with samples taken in other environments (for example conventional non-organic olive groves), and will also give us the possibility to monitor the evolution, year after year.

    Danyadara Regenerating Soil Recovery 2

    This time we wanted to take a step further. To invite others (policymakers, researchers, funding bodies, and local authorities)  to promote a regenerative movement and support permaculture our living proof was required to be complemented. More evidence that permaculture could help to regenerate the soil and consequently facilitate the emergence of a forest was required. This was also for us to keep track of our progress. That is when we decided to create a biodiversity baseline focusing on macroinvertebrates as a proxy to measure biodiversity. This way we hope to show data about how permaculture-related techniques are helping to regenerate the soil.

    If we want to keep all these animals, like these lovely ants, working along our side and in association with other creatures (spiders, sowbugs, beetles…a big team of predators and soil decomposers, who maintain the ecosystem healthy and balanced), then we need to create a nice home for them. This is the message we want to convey through the work we are doing.

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    (+34) 622 14 70 73

    (+34)  633 40 30 07

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