Seedling being planted

First of 100 ‘tiny forests’ planted in UK

The UK’s first ‘tiny forest’ – a dense, urban woodland of fast-growing trees – has been planted in Oxfordshire in a landmark partnership between environmental charity Earthwatch Europe and Witney Town Council.

Staff, councillors and local volunteers planted 600 native trees including oaks, birches, elder, dogwood, crab apple and blackthorn, on a plot roughly the size of a tennis court, to create the new environment. 

Mimicking native woodland, tiny forests offer a nature-based environmental solution for urban areas where space is limited. The idea is based on groundbreaking forest management methods developed in the 1970s by Japanese botanist Dr Akira Miyawaki, using key principles of allelopathy – biochemical interaction between species – and the complementarity of species in naturally wooded areas.

Despite their diminutive size, tiny forests can deliver significant tangible benefits, including flood mitigation, improved air quality, noise reduction, valuable wildlife havens and spaces for people to connect with nature. 

Planting trees has been shown to be one of the most effective ways of taking carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and scientific modelling shows that just four years after planting, a single tiny forest will have grown up to five times faster than a traditional monoculture tree-planting scheme and will absorb up to 30 times more carbon. It will also attract more than 500 species of animals and plants and process 30,000 litres of rainfall, as well as improving air quality and noise reduction if planted near a busy road. 

Earthwatch is bringing the scheme to the UK with the help of Dutch organisation IVN Nature Education, which has already planted nearly 100 tiny forests in The Netherlands. The charity aims to plant 100 forests in the UK by 2023, with plans already under way to create another in Oxford.

Victor Beumer, senior research lead at Earthwatch Europe said: “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 governments to take environmental action, by supporting a tiny forest in their local area.

 – Victor Beumer, senior research lead at Earthwatch Europe


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