Stepping Stone Forests

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Stepping Stone forests are small, dense, very fast-growing plantations of entirely native species in an urban setting. They are called Stepping Stone forests because they act as biodiverse oases for wildlife to move from forest to forest encouraging genetic diversity as well as providing a natural refuge in urban areas. They are High Nature Value areas that will significantly enhance the biodiversity of the Ireland's Green Infrastructure.

These forests are created using a specific method as set out by international award-winning botanist, Prof. Akira Miyawaki. He has been creating forests using his unique method since 1970. Over the past five years a number of Miyawaki-style mini forests have been created in urban environments in European countries including the Netherlands, Belgium, France, and most recently, in the UK and Germany. In 2017 and 2018 Leaf Ireland also created a number of such forests in Limerick.

Stepping Stone forests should be a minimum of 100 square metres in size. The site soil must be sampled and analysed. Appropriate levels of natural soil enhancement and enrichment are added. The area is very densely planted at a rate of 3 to 5 saplings per square metre. Only species that are native to the area are used. The ground is then heavily mulched to retain moisture and to suppress weeds. Regular mulching, watering, weeding, staking etc. occurs for three years after which the forest is entirely self-sustaining and requires no further management. The dense planting means that the trees and shrubs must compete with each other and this encourages extremely rapid growth. Within 20 years the Stepping Stone forest will have many of the characteristics of a 100 year old traditional forest.

The features and benefits of Stepping Stone forests, created using the Miyawaki Method, are as follows:

CO2 absorption is 30 times greater (than grassland)
• Biodiversity that is up to 100 times higher (than grassland)
• Soil is more resilient to flooding and to extended dry periods
• Grows and develops 10 times quicker (due to the density of planting)
• Requires no management after three years
• Natural sound barrier
• Natural air conditioner
• Global cooling effect. Typically the temperature is 2° lower than the ambient temperature
• Expand environmental awareness due to the involvement of local communities
• Carbon Offset opportunity