What are microforests?
Great question! Microforests are dense pockets of vegetation in the city or the suburb. Typically, they contain various types of native plants that grow to varying heights and occupy various canopy levels. Because they contain a diverse type of species and are densely-planted, the plants of the microforest are planted close together so that they can grow faster due to competition for sunlight.
The Miyawaki Method
The concept of a microforest was originally developed by Japanese botanist Akira Miyawaki in the 1950s. The initial goal of the Miyawaki method was to restore indigenous forests made of native trees on extremely degraded and deforested soil. This method of ecological engineering (which is the study of designing sustainable ecosystems) helps produce an efficient pioneer forest that speeds up the process of creating a forest immensely.
Forests made using the Miyawaki method grow in 2-3 years and are self-sustaining. Compared to conventional planting techniques, forests grown using the Miyawaki method are approximately 30 times denser.
The steps to the Miyawaki Method are as follows:
- Site survey and the discovery of the natural potential vegetation
- Terrain preparation
The first step is surveying the site and discovering the natural vegetation. This means knowing what the soil texture of the site is, the water holding capacity of the soil, the capacity of root perforation, the capacity of water infiltration, and the capacity of retaining nutrients.
Furthermore, this also means researching what native vegetation you need/want to plant in your microforest. You should have up to 6-8 different species of trees. Some information to know about the trees you want to plant are the maximum height they can reach, the age of the species, and the ideal height of the species.
The second step is preparing the terrain. This includes mapping out the area of land that will be used for the microforest, placing cardboard down over the site, and mulching the terrain to help stop the growth of unwanted weeds.
The third step is the actual planting. First, you would excavate soil from the ground about 4 feet down. Then, you would dig pits for the plants that are 12-14 inches wide and 12 to 14 inches deep. Afterwards, you would place your tree sapling and continue placing saplings of different varieties with a slight distance between them.
The fourth step would be to maintain the forest by regularly watering the plants and making sure not to overwater them. By maintaining the plants over a period of 2-3 years, a dense microforest will develop and eventually become self-sustaining.
Microforests are incredibly beneficial to the environment because they can absorb 30 times more carbon than regular plantings and can be as small as 30 sqm. Furthermore, because their roots are dense, they slow down runoff that would otherwise go into drainage systems. This prevents the pollution of water. Additionally, they also provide food, shelter, and habitat for wildlife.