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Innovative tree growing method sees tiny urban forests pop up across Europe

Planting more forests around the globe is definitely a good approach to help reduce the risk of climate change, but it can take decades before trees can grow to their full potential and significantly benefit the environment.

Using an innovative approach towards growing forests, people around Europe are working on speeding up this process by planting tiny, dense, and fast-growing forests in their urban and suburban areas, all in a bid to promote biodiversity and help fight the climate crisis.

Often sited in schoolyards or alongside roads, the forests can be as small as a tennis court. They are based on the work of the Japanese botanist Akira Miyawaki, who has planted more than 1,000 such forests in Japan, Malaysia, and elsewhere.

According to advocates of the method, the miniature forests grow 10 times faster and become 30 times denser and 100 times more biodiverse than those planted by conventional methods.

To achieve this, the tree saplings must be planted close together, three per square meter, using native varieties adapted to local conditions. A wide variety of species – ideally 30 or more – are planted to recreate the layers of a natural forest.

Scientists say such ecosystems are key to meeting climate goals, estimating that natural forests can store 40 times more carbon than single-species plantations. The Miyawaki forests are designed to regenerate land in far less time than the 70-plus years it takes a forest to recover on its own.

The movement has reached urban and suburban areas in many parts of Europe, including the Netherlands, France, and Belgium, with hundreds of Miyawaki-style forests now part of many cities’ greenscapes.

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