These mini-forests can become mature ecosystems in just 20 years and act as an oasis of biodiversity, as they contain 20 times more species and become 30 times denser than forests planted by conventional methods. This result is achieved by planting between three to five seeds, per square meter, using native varieties adapted to local conditions, and several species, 30 or more, are planted in order to recreate a natural forest.
The result, according to proponents of the method, is complex ecosystems perfectly suited to local conditions that improve biodiversity, grow quickly, and absorb more CO2.
The method is based on the work of Japanese botanist Akira Miyawaki. He found that the protected areas around temples, shrines, and cemeteries in Japan contained a huge variety of native vegetation that coexisted to produce resilient and diverse ecosystems.
In the Netherlands, the conservation group IVN Nature Education has helped cities and families to plant 100 such forests since 2015. It is estimated that this number will double by 2022 and efforts are being made to do the same in other countries. In Belgium and France, at least 40 mini-forests have already been planted. Groups in India and the Amazon followed suit.
Urban forests bring many benefits to communities, in addition to the impact on biodiversity. Green spaces help to improve people’s mental health, reduce the harmful effects of air pollution, and help to regulate the phenomenon of heatwaves in cities.
It is the potential to help combat climate change that makes Miyawaki forests a very useful option for many environmentalists. It is estimated that new or restored forests can remove up to 10 gigatonnes of CO2 by 2050.
However, several conservation groups emphasize that Miyawaki‘s forests should not be seen as an alternative to protect existing native forests. According to them, small and disconnected wooded areas will never be able to replace the large extensions of forests that are vital for the life of so many species.