Greening The City – Urban Micro Forests

Greening The City – Urban Micro Forests

If a piece of land is free from human intervention, a forest will naturally self-seed and take over within a period of around 600 to 1,000 years. We can now amplify that growth process to establish a mature, native forest in as little as ten years.

Having operated at the forefront of the Urban Greening industry for the past 10 years with their ‘hi-tech’ Living Wall and LivingPillar™ offerings, it was often mused by the Scotscape sales teams that, if given the chance, they would much rather use ‘old tech’ to bring green into the built environment. Old tech being planting into the ground, into soil, not complicated…the old fashioned way.

The challenges in cities however revolved mainly around the lack of space. Below ground congestion of services often meant no room for root spread to sustain healthy growth.

That is why they developed their Woodland Living Wall system to enable trees to grow on the sides of buildings. Five years into a 10 year trial on a 20m2 area of vertical woodland, the trees have grown to 4 mtrs in height, the undergrowth is dense and provides for great biodiversity and there is all year round interest. The concept is working but restrictions on retrofitting to existing buildings remain. Same problem – lack of space!

There is however some ‘low tech’ hope on the horizon using a methodology developed in the 1970’s by Akira Miyawaki, a Japanese botanist and specialist in the restoration of natural vegetation on degraded land…..the Urban Micro Forest.

The essential principle of the Miyawaki method is using species of trees that would occur naturally in that area and that can work together to create a diverse multi layered forest community.

This method of afforestation allows trees to be densely planted at between 3-4 per m2, and, with the correct ground preparation, grow up to 10 times faster per annum than a conventionally grown tree, with a 97% success rate. The larger the area the more the benefits but even a tennis court size of forest can work its magic.

The data is impressive. At four years of growth, 1m2 of Urban Micro Forest can sequester 3 kilos of Co2 per annum, emit 2.2 kilos of pure oxygen and increase biodiversity by up to 100 times that of traditional urban grassed areas. During storm conditions, just 1m2 of micro forest is able to process up to 150 litres (1.5m3) of water run-off. This is partly due to the fertile forest floor that acts as a sponge.

With lockdown reawakening awareness to our connection with nature and with councils and BIDS keen to re-invent the high street by introducing Living Green, we have developed the LivingPillar™ as an innovative way to bring biodiversity into the built environment and form green corridors. But wouldn’t it be great if we could combine old and new tech?

Having lived in South London for 35 years, Angus says “If you keep your eyes open you will see plenty of tennis court areas of space which could be used – often a stone’s throw from the high street. We have the teams and skillset to plant urban forests. We see them working in conjunction with the high tech LivingPillar™ not only so that we can join up the green forest dots from a biodiversity perspective but because the Urban Micro Forests offer many of the solutions to today’s challenges of Air Quality, Community Engagement and Flooding.”


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