As part of its voluntary environmental investigation programme, Flughafen Berlin Brandenburg GmbH began monitoring bees in 2011. As part of this, it examines honey, pollen, and honeycombs for residues from air traffic. The project, which is scheduled to run for several years, will primarily investigate typical traffic emissions in the vicinity of BER. The monitoring is intended, in particular, to clarify whether honey from the airport region can be consumed without hesitation.
Bees are well suited for such studies because they are particularly sensitive to pollutants and disturbances of their living conditions. During its daily excursions, a forager bee flies to around 4,000 flowers and comes into contact with potential pollutants found on the flowers and pollen as well as in the surrounding area.
The samples are provided by several bee colonies that collect their nectar on the airport grounds or in the immediate vicinity of the airport. For comparison, samples are taken from bee colonies that live in the Schorfheide, which is largely unaffected by air traffic. Honey, pollen and combs are examined by the Munich-based environmental institute UMW Umweltmonitoring.
The start of investigations in 2011 ensures that possible changes to the environment in the vicinity of the BER airport are documented. The studies have also been continued since the BER went into operation and are published in a generally understandable form.
In a voluntary environmental investigation programme, the airport company examines the spread of air pollutants caused by air traffic as well as their effects on the environment. For this purpose, both standardised grass crops and kale plants were planted on the grounds and in the vicinity of the airport. Both plant species are particularly well suited as bioindicators because they accumulate certain air pollutants.
The measuring points are placed near the runway, in the village of Schönefeld, in Schulzendorf, in Blankenfelde, and along the motorway as well as in agricultural areas far from the airport to enable a comparison of the pollution situation.
Biomonitoring was carried out in 2011 and 2012 with kale and in 2012 and 2013 with grass crops.
The results of the tests conducted by the Munich-based institute UMW Umweltmonitoring for polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) and heavy metals show no influence of airport operations on air pollutants in the surrounding area. In 2015, biomonitoring with grass crops was carried out to accompany the north runway renovation and the simultaneous use of the southern runway.
Biomonitoring with grass crops or kale is carried out according to precise specifications of the Association of German Engineers (VDI). The strict guidelines on the soil in which the plants are grown, the irrigation water, and the harvesting methods ensure the scientific standard of the method. The plants used in the study programme are pre-cultivated under the same conditions on a neutral substrate. In the study area, these are then placed in pots on a pole and absorb pollutants from the air over four weeks (grass culture) or eight weeks (kale).
The investigation results are published continually and in a generally understandable form in order to also document possible changes in air quality.