Urban tiny forests are good for biodiversity

April 23, 2018

Tiny forests are small city forests, as big as a tennis court, in which a large number of tree species are planted to get the most biodiversity possible. The spiritual father of this concept is the Indian engineer Shubhendu Sharma.

The Dutch Institute for Nature Education and Sustainability (IVN) brought this idea to the Netherlands. In 2015 the Groene Woud was planted in Zaanstad, the first official tiny forest: 600 trees of 40 species. The nearby Gouwse Bos became the second tiny forest, but was set up according to a slightly different philosophy and is formally not a tiny forest. Berry shrubs and plants were also sown here. The names of the tiny forests were chosen by primary school students.

Research into biodiversity tiny forests

Seven tiny forests have already been planted in the Netherlands. With the success of the Cruyff Courts and Krajicek Playgrounds in mind, the IVN wants to plant more than a hundred of this type of tiny forest all over the Netherlands in just a few years. The question is whether these forests do what they are intended to do: increase biodiversity.

To answer this question, in 2017, the Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality commissioned research to be conducted throughout the entire year. Wageningen Environmental Research (WENR) plotted the biodiversity of the forests each month with the help of volunteers. “This has never been done before”, says project leader Fabrice Ottburg of WENR. “The Groene Woud is the first tiny forest in the world that has been studied year-round in terms of the flora and fauna."

Greater biodiversity compared to nearby forests

The research shows that both the Gouwse Bos and the Groene Woud have more biodiversity, compared to nearby forests. This applies both to the number of species groups as for the number of individuals. Groene Woud and Gouwse Bos both contribute to the biodiversity of the area.

"The fact that all sorts of species have managed to reach the forests is partly due to the fact that they are located in a park where nature is already present", says Fabrice Ottburg. He wonders how such forests would develop if they are established in a more urban environment. Eventually he wants to see what its effect is, for example, on air quality and heat management in the immediate environment, and on the water storage capacity.

More tiny forests in the future

The IVN would like to roll out the concept all over the Netherlands. The chance of this is large, because during the Tiny Forest Conference of the IVN and the province of Noord-Holland on February 7, where Fabrice Ottburg and Dennis Lammertsma of WENR made the results of the study known, and where Daan Bleichrodt of the IVN gave a presentation, Daan was swarmed by a camera crew of the Nationale Postcode Loterij, led by Nicolette van Dam. He was given a cheque of over 1.8 million euro on the spot. With this amount the IVN may be able to realise the Tiny Forests project.