UK’s first ‘tiny forest’ will be planted on a plot the size of a tennis court in Oxfordshire to help tackle wildlife loss, floods and heatwaves in urban areas

  • Around 600 native trees will be planted this week in a small, dense plot in Witney
  • The 200-square-metre plot will absorb carbon, attract species and reduce noise
  • Tiny forests were thought up by Japanese botanist Akira Miyawaki in the 1970s

The UK is to get its first ‘tiny forest’ on a plot the size of a tennis court to deliver benefits to urban communities and wildlife.

Around 600 native trees will be planted in Witney, Oxfordshire, in a small, fast-growing and dense forest that mimics native woodland.

Tiny forests are designed to fit into a small area – around 200 square metres or roughly the size of a tennis court – to make them suitable for urban areas short on space.

It is hoped that the UK’s first tiny forest will be the first of many to help tackle issues facing urban areas, such as flooding and heatwaves.

Tiny forests can also store carbon in trees and soak up water to reduce local flooding, attract wildlife, improve air quality and help with urban temperatures.

Mimicking native woodland, this small, fast-growing, and dense forest is ideal for urban areas where space is limited

Environmental charity Earthwatch Europe, council staff and volunteers will start laying the plot with seeds and bulbs this Saturday.

TINY FOREST BENEFITS 

Scientific modelling shows that just four years after planting, a single Tiny Forest will: 

– Grow up to five times faster compared to traditional monoculture tree-planting schemes.

– Absorb up to 30 times more carbon compared to traditional planting schemes.

– Attract more than 500 species of animals and plants – in addition to those planted.

– Process 30,000 litres of rainfall.

– Improve air quality through dust reduction.

– Provide up to 30 times better noise reduction compared to traditional planting schemes. 

– Additional ‘thermal comfort and cooling capacity’.

Volunteers and councillors will help plant 600 native trees from oaks, birches and elder to dogwood, crab apple and blackthorn in the plot of land.

‘The global environmental crisis focuses the mind but also provides a tremendous opportunity to think outside the box, giving us the confidence to experiment and try new things,’ said Witney Town Councillor Vicky Gwatkin.

‘Tiny Forests demonstrate that, far from being a sacrifice, the shift to “green” can actually provide a range of other community benefits.’

Trees in the small plot will range from oaks, birches and elder to dogwood, crab apple and blackthorn.

Tiny forests will provide a green solution to challenges such as biodiversity loss, while providing flood mitigation, improved air quality, havens for wildlife and a space for local people to connect with nature, according to Witney Town Council.

One study published in Nature also suggests the cooling effect of forests in temperate climate zones, based on satellite observations.  

One year after planting, a tiny forest will absorb up to 30 times more carbon compared to traditional planting schemes, attract more than 500 species of animals and plants and process 30,000 litres of rainfall.

After the first pilot forest, Earthwatch will be planting a second plot with Oxford City Council in Oxford and hopes to team up with other sponsors and landowners to plant hundreds of the miniature woodlands across the UK.

Earthwatch is seeking other sponsors and land owners to help bring hundreds more tiny forests to the UK

Tiny forests are based on a forest management methodology developed in the 1970s by Japanese botanist Dr Akira Miyawaki and reinvigorated by Indian engineer and entrepreneur Shubhendu Sharma in the 2010s.

More than 3,000 forests have been planted worldwide using Miyawaki’s methodology, including in Paris, France and North Bangalore, India.

Earthwatch is rolling out the scheme with the support of IVN Nature Education, a Dutch organisation that has planted nearly 100 Tiny Forests in the Netherlands.

Volunteers and councillors will help plant 600 native trees from oaks, birches and elder to dogwood, crab apple and blackthorn in the tiny forest, in Witney, Oxfordshire

Victor Beumer, senior research lead at Earthwatch Europe, said: ‘We are excited to be planting a Tiny Forest, the first of its kind in the UK, in partnership with Witney Town Council.

‘At a time when it seems impossible to overcome the enormous challenge of the climate and ecological crisis, tiny forests offer a collaborative natural solution with far-reaching benefits.

‘We hope to inspire individuals, businesses and government to take environmental action, by supporting a tiny forest in their local area.’

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