Why is Brookline planting Mini-Forests?
Communities around the globe are planting pockets of native trees, called Mini-Forests, to manage the effects of climate change. Based on research conducted by Japanese botanist Akira Miyawaki, dense plantings of native tree and shrub seedlings can be as small as two parking spaces and still provide large benefits.
- cools and filters air
- stores carbon
- increases biodiversity
- reduces flooding & erosion
- grows fast
- Where are other mini-forests located?
Mini-forests have been planted in many countries, from France and the Netherlands in Europe, to India and Japan. Mini-forests have also been planted in several cities in the U.S. The first mini-forest in New England was planted at Danehy Park in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 2021. Cambridge planted its second mini-forest in 2022.
- What is involved in planting a mini-forest?
All of the vegetation planted in a mini-forest must be native to the region and should be compatible with conditions unique to the planting site. Generally, between 30 and 50 different species are planted. Most of the species are canopy trees, understory trees, and shrubs. The trees and shrubs are planted as seedlings. Before planting, the soil is de-compacted and enriched with compost to ensure that seedlings have access to ample food and nutrients. Approximately three seedlings are planted per square yard. After planting, the soil is topped with mulch to encourage moisture retention and deter weeds. Fencing may be needed to protect the mini-forest from animals during the first three years.
- Why is a mini-forest cost-effective?
The cost of planting a mini-forest depends on its size and the amount of preparatory work needed. Expenses include plants; labor, supplies, and equipment associated with preparing the soil; and fencing to protect the mini-forest during the first three years. Planting seedlings is less expensive than planting 6΄-8΄ trees. Using volunteers to plant a mini-forest helps the town save in labor costs. Once a mini-forest is planted, the costs are minimal. Periodic weeding and watering are needed only in the first three years. After three years, the forest maintains itself.
- How can I get involved?
Brookline residents will be invited to share their thoughts in public hearings about proposed locations for a mini-forest. Additionally, all community members will be encouraged to participate in planting the mini-forest and helping with weeding and watering in the first three years. Most importantly, it is hoped that Brookline residents will enjoy the forest by watching it grow and experiencing the shade and biodiversity it brings to the surrounding area!
- Where can I get more information about mini-forests?
A large and growing number of print and online resources are available. Here are just a few:
- Mini-Forest Revolution by Hannah Lewis, Chelsea Green Publishing (2022)
- How Plants Cool the Planet
- The first Miyawaki forest in the northeast was planted in Cambridge
- Biodiversity for a Livable Climate (Cambridge, MA)
- Urban Forests
Watching the Forest Grow
Year 1: Native seedlings are densely planted in decompacted and enriched soil. During the first 3 years, some weeding and watering is needed to ensure the establishment of native species.
Year 3: The seedlings mature, growing up to 3 feet per year, 10 times faster than normal, due to cooperation with surrounding plants and soil. As sun-tolerant species shade out weeds, the environment fosters the growth of long-lived trees.
Year 20: The multi-layered structure of shrubs and trees of our native forest emerges, providing habitat and climate resiliency without requiring maintenance. The densely planted mini-forest is 20 times more biodiverse than a conventional forest and stores 40 times more carbon than a tree plantation.
Brookline Avenue Playground Mini-Forest
Photo 1: Leise Jones Photography
Thank you to the many volunteers who came to Brookline Avenue Playground on October 15, 2023 to plant the town’s first Mini-Forest.
Come visit Brookline's new mini-forest at Brookline Avenue Playground! A big thank you to all the awesome volunteers that joined us on October 15, 2023, to plant the town's first mini-forest.
- White pine
- Tulip tree
- Red maple
- Red oak
- Shadblow serviceberry
Where to find: 575 Brookline Ave, Brookline MA
Closest public transportation: Bus routes 60 and 65 at Brookline Ave @ Aspinwall Ave
Want to learn more about the Miyawaki method? Watch the documentary A Cambridge Miyawaki Forest by Brookline filmmaker Isabel Pisano. This 32-minute movie is available to stream and shows how Cambridge planted their mini-forest in Danehy Park in 2021.