Creation of small woodlands in urban areas to improve local biodiversity and help tackle the impacts of climate change; as well as providing opportunities for people living in local communities to connect with nature.
Wee Forests are small, tennis court-sized, native species–rich, densely planted and fast growing, urban woodlands that can incorporate an outdoor classroom and provide opportunities for school and community engagement and citizen science.
They improve urban biodiversity, provide nature-positive accessible greenspace for people to connect with nature and make communities more resilient to the impacts of climate change. They provide young people with an opportunity to tackle the ecological and climate emergency and contribute to Scotland’s tree planting targets by planting and looking after their own forest in their own neighbourhood.
Wee Forests is the Scottish name for TinyForests®, part of a global community of practice based on the methods of Japanese Botanist Akiri Miyawaki. The ‘Miyawaki Method’ encourages accelerated forest development by adopting the following approach:
- No artificial chemicals or fertilisers: To avoid impacts on wildlife
- Dense Planting: 3-4 tree ‘whips’ (year-old saplings with few branches) per m².
- Native species: Using primarily native species that are found in nearby semi-natural woodlands
- Soil enrichment: Where soils are compacted and nutrient-poor, the ground is prepared by working organic matter into the soil up to a metre deep with a mini-digger
- Mulch: A thick organic mulch (usually straw) to supress weeds for the first few years
- Minimal intervention: The woodland is left to self-thin and deadwood is left in situ
Wee Forests are created using a particular methodology with extensive soil sampling and preparation, creating the competitive conditions for them to flourish. This makes them different from other forms of urban tree planting.
As well as being a living science laboratory, Wee Forests can incorporate outdoor classroom seating and provide a space for young people to learn about climate change and the value of urban trees.
Supported by Earthwatch Europe, communities will be able to take part in citizen science activities, like monitoring the butterflies that use the forest and measuring the impact the trees have on air temperature.
Recent research has shown that engaging in environmental action such as citizen science, provides a transformative experience that fosters pro-environmental behaviours that are sustained over the long term.
Environmental and social data will be collected for every Wee Forest planted in the demonstration project for up to 10 years. This will help assess the benefits they provide to nature and people over time.
During lockdowns around the world people have valued the direct physical and wellbeing benefits of nature – spending time in their local parks and green spaces. More people than ever before are starting to fully understand and support powerful arguments to put nature at the heart of our emergence from this crisis.
What are the benefits?
It is important to note that this is not just a case of planting some trees. Engagement with communities, particularly young people, is a key feature of the Wee Forest approach. Participants will usually design and plant the forest themselves and plan a series of events in the forest. A volunteer ‘Tree Keeper Team’ is established to look after the forest and coordinate a range of citizen science projects that demonstrate the importance of urban trees and nature in helping to tackle the effects of climate change.
Recent research has shown that environmental actions such as citizen science, particularly where people participate in the planning, implementing, and monitoring of nature based solutions, provides a transformative experience that fosters pro-environmental attitudes that are sustained over the long term.
The vision is that Wee Forests are planted all over urban Scotland in every neighbourhood as a nature-based solution that can deliver a range of social and environmental benefits. This supports the ambition that everyone regularly experiences, enjoys and derives multiple benefits from everyday contact with nature where they live, play, work or go to school.
West Pilton Park Wee Forest
West Pilton Park was the site for the first Wee Forest in Edinburgh which involved planting up 600 trees using 17 species with 3 local schools. We also had people from local community groups and some lovely individuals too.
Peacocktail Close Wee Forest
Over 40 people from the local community helped to plant up the Wee Forest in Peacocktail Close in Craigmillar. Thanks also to the children from St Francis Primary school who helped out.
Queen Margaret University Wee Forest
Through partnership working, a Wee Forest was created in the grounds at Queen Margaret University. The planting of the trees was carried out by pupils from 3 local primary schools as well as staff and students at the University.
There was also a video produced by the students.
West Lothian Wee Forests
There were 3 Wee Forests created in West Lothian at West Calder, Addiewell and Whitburn which were supported by West Lothian Council. We worked with 7 schools which involved 189 pupils. We also had 27 people from the local community to help plant up the trees.
Hailes Quarry Park
A Wee Forest was created in Hailes Quarry Park near Wester Hailes with help from 53 pupils from Longstone Primary School.
Colinton Mains Park
A Wee Forest was created in Colinton Mains Park which involved working with 3 local primary schools and 82 pupils who helped plant the trees.
With support from Midlothian Council a wee forest was created in the grounds of Bonnyrigg Primary School. There were over 70 pupils and their parents who helped plant up the trees.
Getting communities involved in citizen science where they live is a vital step in understanding and solving our planet’s environmental crises – with Wee Forests, communities can collect the data we need on their doorstep. Steve Andrews, CEO, Earthwatch Europe
Funded by: NatureScot
- Identify sites for Wee Forest Creation
- Create Wee Forests in Edinburgh & the Lothians
- 600 trees are planted densely in a tennis-court size plot with additional space allocated for an outdoor classroom or other community space
- Work with schools to run outdoor activities
- Help attract over 500 animal and plant species within the first 3 year
- 4-6 volunteers per forest act as a Tree Keeper Team to act as the forest ambassadors and support with maintenance
- Each forest is expected to engage up to 50 volunteers on planting and monitoring days
- Environmental and social data will be collected for every forest planted for up to 10 years and will be made available on an open source basis through Earthwatch’s data platform. This will help us assess the benefits they provide over time.
- Help raise awareness of the key role woodlands play in supporting wildlife and increasing our resilience to climate change.
- Help people connect with nature close to home. To give young people the chance to plant and look after their own forest in their own neighbourhood.
- Help neighbourhoods become nature-rich and more resilient to climate change.
- Provide communities with the opportunity to help tackle the nature and climate emergency and contribute to Scotland’s tree planting targets.