Canadian Geographic's Mini-Forest Summit
October 31st, 2023
There is nothing like our nation’s capital to take your breath away on a glorious fall day!
I am on my way home from attending the Canadian Geographic's Mini-Forest Summit hosted by the Network of Nature and their multiple collaborators, Green Communities Canada, Dougan & Associates Ecological Consulting, Canadian Geographic, and the Network’s funders.
The Summit’s purpose was to bring experts, implementors and funders together to increase mini-forest awareness as a nature-based solution while identifying opportunities to accelerate the deployment of these forest practices across Canada."
The Summit’s purpose was to bring experts, implementors and funders together to increase mini-forest awareness as a nature-based solution while identifying opportunities to accelerate the deployment of these forest practices across Canada.
I can’t think of a more inspiring setting to host a conversation on the importance of trees and mini-forests than the Royal Canadian Geographic Society’s headquarters. The building sits atop one of the most iconic Canadian views in Ottawa of Rideau Parks Falls cascading into the Ottawa River and overlooking Gatineau’s mixed forest.
Also, to be surrounded by so many inspiring leaders, scientists, ecologists, and tree-lovers who all recognize the impact nature-based solutions can have on our country. Not only does this crowd acknowledge the immediate ecological benefits mini-forests provide, but there is a sense of collective understanding and recognition of the benefits trees have, both inherently, for humans, and their significance to our planet at this specific time in history.
I was asked by one of our grantees, Green Communities Canada, and the Delphi Group to speak on a panel to discuss funding of mini-forests and future funding needs. Among the panelists was Carolyn Scotchmer of TD Friends of the Environment and Amelie Roberge of Natural Resource Canada.
One of the first questions we were asked was why mini-forests are attractive to our organizations. This was easy to answer since mini-forests align well with the Foundation’s Resilient Greenbelt Grant Program, for which, one of our top priority objectives for the last three years has been increasing natural cover within the Greenbelt, with a target of 1 million trees. Planting trees in the Greenbelt helps the Foundation achieve its role to protect and enhance the Greenbelt’s natural heritage systems, maintain natural infrastructure across its landscapes and increase the climate resiliency of the region.
There are many benefits and solutions a mini-forest can provide to the Greenbelt. First, mini-forests are an urban and a near-urban nature-based solution. This is especially valuable for Ontario’s Greenbelt because the area sustains high rates of biodiversity, yet consequently, is Canada’s most densely populated region, meaning it needs innovative solutions. The brilliance of these types of solutions is that they achieve a multitude of ecosystem services and societal benefits collectively.
The model of a mini-forest comes from Japanese botanist Akira Miyawaki who developed a reforestation approach that grows trees in small areas and more rapidly than conventional methods. The idea is these forests become self-sufficient in a shorter time and can be cultivated in unconventional locations such as schoolyards, urban right-of-ways and parks.
For the Foundation, the greatest value is that these types of initiatives bring stewardship experiences into the communities of the Greenbelt. They provide an engaging opportunity for education and allow citizens to take part in climate and biodiversity action at a local level.
I think planting trees is one of the most powerful climate actions for people to participate in, especially if we connect it to its immediate benefits. These can include providing clean air, creating habitat for wildlife, temperature control, increasing soil permeability and flood mitigation and carbon storage.
We also know that depending on the location of a mini-forest, it has the potential to provide more access and equity to greenspace. Finally, in the face of climate change, it allows people to contribute to the solution and positively take action.
With one in four Canadians living in the Greater Golden Horseshoe, a major urban centre, the Greenbelt has always been an essential resource for outdoor recreation. Mini-forests bring the benefits of nature closer to home, making access to green space more accessible for all Ontarians. To learn more about the National Mini-Forest Pilot and get involved click here.
Written by Maggie Ballantyne, Senior Program Manager for The Greenbelt Foundation.