French volunteers are using a pioneering Japanese tree-planting method to create small forests in Paris, hoping to curb climate change, create biodiversity hotspots and combat the increasing number of heatwaves in the capital.
On a humid Saturday afternoon in a southern suburb of Paris, a 9-year-old boy wields a shovel to plant a seedling on a strip of abandoned land.
It is not much taller than the sapling you are planting. The afternoon rain had turned the ground beneath him to mud. He throws the shovel aside and cleans the clay soil with his hands.
Together with his proud grandmother and fellow volunteers, he is immersed in planting a mini forest, also known as a pocket forest, along a busy road in the Chevilly-Larue district, 9.3 kilometers south of central Paris. .
French non-profit Boomforestorganized a tree planting initiative, attracting a dozen volunteers of all ages, dressed in hats and boots as they braved the cold and rain.
Grazia Valle, 79, a former journalist, said she "seized the opportunity to do something concrete" on climate change and showed her grandson how to plant trees.
"He loves to go tocommunity gardenhe said, casting an affectionate look in her direction. "Whenever I take care of him, he is always clamoring to go there."
"Not all children have the opportunity to see how vegetables grow and taste them," he said, applauding the initiative. "We are very interested in everything that has to do with nature."
Maxim Timothée, 31, was happy to be outdoors and was motivated by the simple and symbolic act of planting a tree.
“It's really special to plant a tree,” he said, pausing briefly before cutting through the wet clay. “It is not just an object. I feel connected to the life of this tree. I want to protect you. I planted".
Despite the gloomy atmosphere, Timothée said it felt good to take action, instead of sitting at home thinking about life's problems.of Climate Changeand the sharp fallbiodiversity.
The Miyawaki method
Miniwoods were first developed in the 1970s byJapanese botanist Akira Miyawaki, who studied the relics of centuries-old forests that grew around temples and sacred shrines.
Miyawakihe found that they not only thrived without human intervention, but were richer and more resilient than more recently planted forests.
don't givestudy of ancient primary forests, Miyawaki said the densely planted native species, grown on carefully prepared soil at four different elevations to provide multiple layers of cover, grew up to 10 times faster and sequestered more carbon than standard managed forests.
Miyawaki went on to monitor the planting of more than 1,500 forests around the world, stating that a forest as small as 100 square meters could harbor exceptional levels ofbiodiversity.
Miyawaki Forest Defendershe adapted his methodsand transported them around the world as cities seek to halt the effects of climate change, restore degraded land, create biodiversity hotspots and sequester greater amounts of carbon.
Forests the size of tennis courts have been planted in Beirut, in cities across Asia,all over india, and increasingly throughout Europe.
Paris planted its first mini-forest at the northern end of the city's ring road, at Porte de Montreuil, in March 2018, with the French capital's Boomforest concession.participatory budget.
“Ninety-five percent of the trees planted there survived,” says Guillaume Dozier, 33, a regular Boomforest volunteer, as he loads compost into a wheelbarrow to cover the soil around the newly planted seedlings.
“They are already almost four or five meters high,” he says with satisfaction, adding that the biodiversity of the mini-forest is increasing.
“Every time we go there, we notice more and more insects and birds that weren't there before,” says Dozier, explaining that they were putting a program in place to monitor the species gathered there.
The roads are "an extremely hostile environment" for birds and insects, Dozier says of the traffic noise, explaining that the Val de Marne authorities gave them the land next to the road to plant the new forest.
By recreating the same richness and density as a wild forest, the new trees will provide shelter for hundreds of small mammals, insects and birds, Dozier continues.
Unlike artificial forests planted for timber production, where trees are arranged in neat rows and planted 10 meters apart, trees in Miyawaki forests are planted close to each other.
Up to three trees per square meter were being planted randomly along the road, with the young, spindly seedlings clustered together.
It has been shown that planting a single tree hasthe same cooling effect as 10 air conditioners.Buttrees are socialand they do much better when planted in the company of other trees, explains Dozier.
“They will shade each other and will be able to exchange water, nutrients and information. If one of them is under attack, they can warn the others. For example, they bitter their leaves to make them less edible for the invader,” he says.
All seedlings are local French species. By location, the city of Paris defines native French plants as those found in the region before AD 1500. C., explains Hannah Lewis in her book: “Miniforest Revolution: using the Miyawaki method to revolutionize the world”. But the Boomforest team did additional research to ensure that their trees and shrubs were the most locally adapted species and coexisted well.
Oak, ash, beech and willow trees are planted in the center, while shrubs such as hazelnut, holly and chickadee are planted at the edges. Only 15 different plant species were planted that weekend, but as many as 31 local trees and shrubs were planted in other Boomforest projects.
Pocket woods in Paris
Advocates of small forests also hope they can make a dense city like Paris more livable in the heat.
In the summer of 2022, Paris suffered three successive heat waves for a total of 33 days, with temperatures in the French capital reaching near-record highs of 40 degrees Celsius.
The lack of trees, the shade and the peace they provide – Parishas about 9% tree cover—It was remarkable when the city turned into a furnace.
Parisians withered on the city's paved streets as the asphalt, concrete and metal of the buildings absorbed the heat and returned it.
The City of Paris haspledged to plant 170,000 trees in the French capital by 2026. More to go from 76old banana trees in april last year, to make way for landscaped spaces, drew the ire of environmentalists, includingcitizen treesmio GNSA, groups that fight against the felling of trees.
Green activists also say that newly planted seedlings arethere is no competition for the cover provided by a decade-old tree, is thatyoung trees are particularly vulnerable to drought.
Critics of the Miyawaki-style forestadd that mini-forests areexpensive to plantand that the science behind planting them in Europenot robust enough. AND2010 study of a mini-forest in Sardinia, one of the rare studies of mini-forests in Europe, put the tree mortality rate after 12 years at between 61 and 84 percent.
Despite the apparent enthusiasm of the Parisian authorities for planting trees, Dozier admitted that it was difficult to find space for them in the center of the city.
“Paris is a bit like a museum,” he said wryly, adding that mini-forests have only been planted at the city gates, at La Porte Maillot and La Porte des Lilas.
He hopes that one day they will have the opportunity to plant a mini forest in the heart of Paris, adding that they are adapting their tree planting methods and learning all the time. He also hopes that others will decide to plant their own pocket forests and that those anxious about climate change will be encouraged to take action. Downloadable step-by-step instructions for forest planting are described inI act I plant(I act, I plant), on the Boomforest website, and other mini-forestry groups in France, such asMiniBosqueGrandemiToulouse in transition.
By late afternoon, the rain had picked up. But the enthusiasm of the volunteers showed no signs of waning. Almost half of the 250 square meters they wanted to reforest that weekend had been dug up and planted with seedlings. When Boomforest's budget allows, they hope to return to planting more on the 800 square meters they are allotted.
Over the next few months, in the spring and then in the fall, regular Boomforest volunteers will return to the newly planted forest to remove any undergrowth that might compete with the young trees and monitor their progress.
In just three years, the new forest will be autonomous. In 10 years, Boomforest hopes it will look like a 100-year-old natural forest.
Valla hopes her grandson will return to the woods in the spring and for years to come.
“I hope he comes here to walk around and say, 'Hey, I really did something here.'
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