How do we turn cities into a natural habitat for people and the millions of other creatures with whom we share this planet?
Urban Rewilding Movement
Urban rewilding is one of the many solutions to create more green spaces in the city. Japanese botanist Akira Miyawaki is one of the forefathers of the urban rewilding movement. He set about a program of restoring Japan’s natural forestry at small sites across the country, using indigenous soil and plants. In many cases the results were spectacular: rapid growth of dense and diverse ecosystems.
Tiny Forest Project
Indian engineer Shubhendu Sharma was inspired by Miyawaki’s approach and translated the working method into an urban environment by creating the Tiny Forest concept. A Tiny Forest is a dense native mini-forest, the size of a tennis court. In December 2015, the Dutch Institute for Environmental Education (IVN) brought engineer Sharma to the Netherlands for a special initiative: planting Europe’s first Tiny Forest. Since then more than 250 plots have been established in urban locations such as roadsides, business parks and schools in The Netherlands. In collaboration with Sharma, IVN turned the Tiny Forest concept into a registered trademark.
There is minimal interference once the plants and trees have been seeded. Over time ecosystems develop that take on lives of their own. The forests also serve as small carbon sinks, each capturing an average of 127.5 kilograms of CO2 per year, which could double as the forest matures. They also provide a cooling effect. Researchers found soil temperatures were up to 20 degrees Celsius lower than on nearby streets.
Large-Scale Nature Restoration
Tiny Forests are a good start, but it is to be hoped that this is only the beginning of large-scale nature restoration. In a wonderful article on CNN’s website, IVN’s Tiny Forest project is seen as one of the forerunners of what future cities will look like. And in those cities, nature plays the leading role.
© Picture: IVN Natuureducatie