What on Earth is a Miyawaki forest?

An average forest takes a couple of centuries to grow. But, what if we told you that you can convert a wasteland in your area or the space in your backyard into a thriving mini-forest and watch the saplings evolve into a lush green jungle in your own lifetime?

Innovated and pioneered by Japanese botanist Akira Miyawaki, the namesake technique is an effective, smart, and sustainable way to build native, dense forests in really small spaces. And by small, we mean just the size of a few parking lots. Read on to know more.

A lush green Miyawaki forest 9 onths after it was planted. A man in standing in front of it.
Photo: Beman Herish via Wikimedia Commons

A smart way to plant trees in urban areas

A Miyawaki is a miniature urban forest that is created by planting native species of trees and plants in a small area. With this method of plantation, an urban forest can grow within a short span of 20-30 years while a conventional forest takes around 200-300 years to grow naturally.

The growing of these trees creates a canopy over the area and is an effective way to restore land areas that have been damaged by natural disasters, crop failures, or urban encroachment. This method of urban forestry has been used in Japan for over 50 years as a way to restore natural ecosystems and reduce the carbon footprint of urban areas. It improves air quality, improves visibility, helps reduce noise pollution and helps reduce the maintenance costs of public infrastructure.

The ease of planting and maintaining one 

Compared to traditional methods, a Miyawaki forest grows 10 times faster, and is 30 times denser. Using this methodology, a 300-tree forest can grow in an area the size of six parking spaces. Moreover, these forests become maintenance-free after a span of 3 years. 

The technique uses species of trees that are native to the region, ensuring a high survival rate for the trees planted. In fact, this technique has managed to be successful in areas where other planting projects have failed, such as in arid Mediterranean habitats.No two saplings of the same species are planted next to each other. Planting species that complement each other creates a resilient and thriving forest ecosystem. 

The secret sauce to this technique is that the plants receive sunlight only from the top and grow upwards rather than sideways. So, the saplings grow very fast to compete for the light and then natural selection will favor the fastest growing individuals in the urban Miyawaki forests.

A green ray of hope for crowded, urban areas

These woodlands absorb carbon-dioxide 30 times better compared to a monoculture plantation because of their density. On an average, these Miyawaki forests have been found to have 18 times higher biodiversity than neighbouring woodlands. They boost the area’s biodiversity and attract pollinators like bees and butterflies. They also help with reducing the surrounding noise and dust. 

While they are too dense for people or wildlife to pass through, they have a cooling effect on the atmosphere. Plus, their compact nature has led to them becoming increasingly popular in countries like India, Mexico and Belgium.

However, these mini-forests are no substitute to ancient forests

While Miyawaki forests have their advantages, they are no substitute for real, ancient forests. Naturally, it is very difficult for small, unconnected wooded areas to replace the large tracts of forest that are vital to so many species. Moreover, the Miyawaki technique is used by some to justify the logging of forests. 

An ancient forest is a complex ecosystem, and while Miyawaki woodlands can complement them, they are not a replacement. That being said, they are a great way to bring some much-needed green in urban settings. 


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Eco-Spotlight is a digital publication that focuses on different aspects of climate change solutions: projects and ideas focused on sustainable development, social entrepreneurship, environmental businesses, eco-friendly practices, and similar green initiatives. Through our solution-focused interviews and articles, we want to bring good news to the forefront and remind the world – without hope, there is no future. We also syndicate our content with White Print, India’s first English lifestyle magazine in Braille.

I'm Ayushi Shah and I co-founded Eco-Spotlight to tell stories of green innovation and remind the world (and myself) that there is hope for humanity and the planet. Reach out to me at ayushi (at) eco-spotlight (dot) com

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