The Netherlands, champions of urban mini-forests

Holland is increasing the planting of small forests the size of tennis courts.

In Gorinchem (Netherlands)

It is not yet a real forest. It must be said that the trees were only planted at the end of March by the children of the Samen Onderweg primary school and the residents of this district, nestled under the bridges of the A27 and A15 motorways, in Gorinchem. The project, supported by the town hall of the small town in the center of the Netherlands, is one of the 145 “tiny forests” in the country. These sets of trees, shrubs and plants, concentrated on 200 square meters – the size of a tennis court – are planted thanks to the organization IVN, whose objective is to “To link man and nature”.

«Two in three children grow up in an urban environment, in our country, which is one of the most densely populated in the world. With these mini-forests, we bring nature back to the city. Because how can you be sensitive to the loss of biodiversity, climate change or plastic in the ocean when you have never seen the sea or a forest? ”, asks Daan Bleichrodt, Plantation Manager at IVN.

It was he who discovered the project of Shubhendu Sharma, an Indian engineer at Toyota who became an ecoentrepreneur after a meeting with the Japanese botanist Akira Miyawaki.

Together, they have developed a method summarized as follows: Three thousand trees growing ten times faster than normal on the equivalent of six parking spaces for a price lower than that of an iPhone. “ IVN has adapted the concept, with smaller sets – composed only of local species and adapted to different types of soil at an average price of 22,000 euros – but still having a big impact.

The first IVN forest – in Zaanstad, a municipality bordering Amsterdam – has been monitored since its plantation in 2015 by the University of Wageningen. The latter has established, on the basis of data collected with citizens also in ten other places, that a single mini-forest can sequester 250 kg of CO per year, i.e. the equivalent of a trip from Amsterdam to Barcelona in car.

“Educational value”

The presence of trees also has positive effects on the soil, which retains water better – more than 6 million liters of rainwater in all have been captured by the eleven forests in five years. Trees also absorb heat: “The air temperature in a mini-forest is more than 1 ° C lower than the air temperature in the adjacent street. The differences in ground temperature are even greater, up to 20 ° C on a hot summer day ”, according to the university. Finally, green spaces also attract animals and other plants: 636 different species were counted!

IVN, like the partner towns and schools, however, does not emphasize the ecological role of small forest plots. “A mini-forest certainly contributes to biodiversity and to making the city greener, but the educational value is essential”, explained Joost van der Geest, city councilor in Gorinchem, during the establishment of the first of a series of forests in the city.“Children who spend time outdoors are shown to be healthier, happier and more creative and we hope they will become green citizens, Point Daan Bleichrodt.

It is for all these reasons that other countries, including France (the Boomforest association), Germany and Great Britain, are starting to follow the path created by IVN. “We are the country where the mini-forests are the most numerous, and we should soon even catch up with India, in number but not on the surface”, details the person in charge, in a nod to Shubhendu Sharma.


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