Known as “Miyawaki” forests, trees grow faster and absorb more CO2 than plantations that grow for wood.
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This story originally appeared in the World Economic Forum
By Alex Thornton, Senior Writer, FEM Formative Content
How much space do you think you need? cultivate a forest?
If your answer is bigger than a couple of tennis courts, think again. Miniature forests emerge in rural areas in urban areas around the world, often by local community groups after one of the japanese temple.
The idea is simple: take the vacant lots, plant them tightly with a variety of native seedlings and let them grow with minimal intervention. According to the method’s advocates, the result is complex ecosystems that are perfectly adapted to local conditions They improve biodiversity, grow quickly and absorb more CO2.
The Miyawaki method
The method is based on the work of the Japanese botanist Akira Miyawaki. He discovered that the protected areas around temples, shrines, and cemeteries in Japan contained an enormous variety of indigenous vegetation that existed side by side to create resilient and diverse ecosystems. This was in contrast to the coniferous forests – not native trees that were grown for wood – that dominated the landscape.
His work was developed using the Miyawaki method – an approach that prioritizes the natural development of forests using native species. Miyawaki forests can grow into mature ecosystems in just 20 years, surprisingly quickly compared to the 200 years it takes a forest to regenerate. They are an oasis of biodiversity and are home to up to 20 times more species than managed non-native forests.
Local pollinators such as butterflies and bees, beetles, snails and amphibians are among the animals that thrive on a greater variety of food and shelter.
Greening urban spaces around the world
Miyawaki forests are growing in popularity with initiatives in India, the Amazon and Europe. Projects like Urban Forests in Belgium and France and Small Forest in the Netherlands bring volunteers together to transform small wastelands.
Urban forests bring many benefits to communities that go beyond their impact on biodiversity. Green spaces can help improve people’s mental health, reduce the harmful effects of air pollution, and even counteract the phenomenon of heat islands in cities where concrete and asphalt coverings unnaturally raise temperatures.
The potential to combat climate change makes Miyawaki forests a particularly attractive option for many environmentalists. Reforestation is an integral part of strategies to limit rising global temperatures to 1.5 ° C. Initiatives such as the Bonn Challenge, the Trillion Tree Vision and the 1t.org project of the World Economic Forum set ambitious goals.
It is estimated that new or restored forests could remove up to 10 gigatons of C2O equivalent by 2050.
Estimating the potential of carbon removal technologies by 2050 / Photo: Statista
However, not all forests are equally effective in carbon sequestration. Mature native tree forests absorb much more CO2 than monoculture plantations, which are many reforestation projects. As scientists learn more about the role of other factors such as carbon in the soil, it becomes increasingly clear that planting the right tree is just as important as number.
Conservation groups stress that Miyawaki forests should not be seen as an alternative to protecting existing indigenous forests. Small, unrelated forest areas will never be able to replace the vast forest areas that are vital for so many species and that are still threatened by commercial plantations and slash-and-burn agriculture. However, if you have a piece of empty land in your community that is not being used, a Miyawaki forest can be a way to help protect the environment.