Shubhendu Sharma is an eco-entrepreneur who had given a TED Talk in 2014 regarding the importance of a small urban forest while he was on a mission of planting trees all over India. Sharma has explained that these mini-woodland ecosystems had successfully grown almost 10 times faster, were 30 times denser, and had nearly 100 times more biodiversity as compared to any conventional forest.
The idea of the tiny urban forests of Sharma was basically inspired by Akira Miyawaki, a Japanese ecologist. He had first started this technique by which he created small yet condensed urban forests in the degraded soil regions.
As a result, Sharma started planting trees near housing localities, schools as well as factories. Few of the urban forests covered spaces equal to 6 parked cars but they were so dense that no person could walk inside them. He also urged people to do the same thing when we come across any barren or abandoned region and it may surprisingly turn into a mini urban forest. Sharma now has a company named Afforestt that has successfully managed to plant almost 138 small forests across 10 nations all over the planet.
Europe Witnessing Numerous Urban Forests
Tiny urban forests are recently seen coming up all over Europe. Environmental advocates believe that they may be the key to improve the degrading flora-fauna including insects and birds in the cities. In addition, mini-woodlands might also help us reach climate goals with the help of carbon restoration.
Nicolas de Brabandere, a Belgian biologist, encountered Sharma’s campaign during his search for a way to create jobs along with boosting the regeneration of ecosystems. So he visited India to meet Sharma in order to learn about his approach and finally planted his 1st urban forest in France and Belgium in 2016.
However, it is challenging to adapt Miyawaki’s technique in European conditions since the climate, soil condition, and species are entirely different. However, Brabandere informed that he contacted several tree nurseries and scholars to identify appropriate native species of trees that could make the soil better.
Moreover, he also planted species like pear, wild apple, lime trees, and sessile oak. This idea was inspired by the Diversity Forest of Germany. It is merely 700 sq. meters in the area but shelters almost 33 native plant species including lime, ash, oak, beech, and maple.
Environmental Impacts Of Urban Forests
Daan Bleichrodt works at IVN, a Dutch company that establishes a connection between man and nature. He was also impressed with Sharma’s work and adopted a similar method of planting the 1st Dutch small urban forest at Zaandam in 2015. His movement has planted 126 tiny woodlands so far.
IVN also grew a ‘control forest’ right beside the Zaandam tiny forest which has a more conventional method of growth. The ‘control forest’ has berry plants and hedges for birds that can disperse seeds. They intend to run a survey within the next few years to estimate the environmental impact of urban forests upon the soil and air quality, biodiversity, and ability to curb climate changes.
The Wageningen University of Netherlands has researchers gathering data regarding the environmental impacts of Zaandam and 10 other urban forests. They have informed that the results seem promising as they recorded 934 various kinds of animals and plant species. Furthermore, they noted more than 6 million liters of rainwater and lower temperature in the forest area.
Despite varying results between projects, it was found that any average tiny urban forest captures an estimated 127.5 kg of carbon dioxide annually. Several people have questioned the survival of these tiny woodlands in the long run, the Japanese model has proved that survival relies on the soil rather than climate conditions. They can have a positive environmental impact if they are increasingly planted in the cities.