Across the globe, cities are experimenting with tiny forests or micro-forests as a way to connect people back to nature and to grow trees in dense urban areas. Traditional tree plantings that require a lot of space don’t always fit in cities, and urban tree planting has, up until recently, been dominated by non-native species.
The Miyawaki Method, developed by Akira Miyawaki, a Japanese botanist, aims to restore small forest patches in cities to help address climate change, increase locally native species, and increase tree canopy in urban areas.
Hamilton is now home to two new Miyawaki Forest pilot plantings, at Windermere Basin Park and at EcoHouse. Read on to learn more about the Miyawaki Method and what we did to create Hamilton’s first tiny forests!
What is the Miyawaki Method?
After natural forests are removed, recovering and re-establishing a mature forest can take anywhere from 100 to 200 years. As forests continue to grow, so do the benefits they provide for us. Although we want to have quick results, re-establishing mature forests and all their benefits usually requires a long time and extensive human intervention and management. The Miyawaki Method of tree planting has been adopted in several settings as a way to accelerate the reforestation of small patches, in order to combat climate change and help tackle deforestation.
The main feature of a Miyawaki forest is a dense planting of a wide variety of native species in a small area with extra attention paid to rebuilding soil biology. Imagine an area about the size of a tennis court, planted with about 600 trees, consisting of 40 native tree and shrub species.
Examples in countries like Japan and India have popularized the Miyawaki Method, and other countries have started implementing this approach. In Sardegna, Italy researchers reported that the Miyawaki Method was applied where they previously had no success with reforestation and resulted in an increase in plant biodiversity after 2 years and similar results eight years later. Similarly, in Zaanstad, Netherlands researchers conducted studies of tiny forests planted using both native and fruit-bearing trees and one or two-year-old plants instead of saplings. Their monitoring shows that both types of tiny forests had a high success rate, as the biodiversity rate had increased compared to nearby forests.
Why Miyawaki Forests?
Adding Miyawaki Forests in urban areas can add more greenery, mitigate stormwater runoff, increase biodiversity, increase air quality, and connect the community back to nature. And importantly, according to Shubhendu Sharma (whose TED talk made the Miyawaki Method famous), Miyawaki Forests result in trees providing these benefits much more quickly, with 10 times faster tree growth rates, and 30 times more CO2 capture.
Six Steps to the a Miyawaki Method:
Check out this graphic below for a deeper dive into the six basic steps in the Miyawaki Method.
Learning Experience from Miyawaki Forest Planting at Windermere Basin Park and at EcoHouse.
With the help of our amazing volunteers, 600 trees and shrubs were planted on October 2nd, at Windermere Basin Park, making it Hamilton’s first Miyawaki Forest! This amazing project was a collaboration between CanPlant and Green Venture and in partnership with the City of Hamilton’s Forestry Section. Since this is the first time using this method of planting in Hamilton, this project will serve as an experiment to help us understand how this method works in Hamilton’s ecosystem. The sites will continue to be monitored over the next few years.
Our Green Venture team had recently planted a smaller ‘Miyawaki Forest at Home’ demonstration forest at EcoHouse, thanks to a Keep Hamilton Clean and Green grant. We hope that this site will demonstrate how residents can apply the Miyawaki techniques to plant a micro forest right in their own backyards. As it grows, the Miyawaki Forest at Home will establish a new forest at EcoHouse where the community can gather and learn about native ecology.
Stay tuned to learn more about developing your own tiny forest at home!