Connecting people and nature.
Communities and schools are set to benefit from a new network of “Wee Forests” in towns and cities across Scotland, backed by £500,000 Scottish Government funding.
Led by NatureScot, the programme aims to give people the opportunity to help tackle the twin crises of climate change and biodiversity loss by creating and caring for their own forest in their own neighbourhood.
To create each forest, around 600 native trees will be planted by “Wee Foresters” in an area the size of a tennis court. Volunteer keeper teams will look after the forests over the long term and schools will use the forests for outdoor learning.
Supported by Earthwatch Europe, people will also take part in citizen science activities to raise awareness of climate change and the value of urban trees. This will include monitoring the butterflies that use the forests and measuring how much carbon is captured by the trees as they grow.
Planting has already begun, and NatureScot is working with local authorities and a number of Scottish environmental organisations to help roll-out the programme in 2022. Wee Forests will be planted in Glasgow, East Ayrshire, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Dundee and West Lothian.
Environment Minister Mairi McAllan said:
“The horrors of the Covid pandemic have changed how many of us view and value nature, and we know people want to spend more time outdoors for the benefits it brings to their mental and physical health. We want to improve access to green spaces and provide equal opportunities for everyone to connect with nature. Wee Forests are an ideal way of achieving this, whether as a place for children to play or a quiet spot to escape the hustle and bustle of the city.
“This new network of Wee Forests is a great example of partnership working between the public, private and voluntary sector and is an important legacy of COP26 when the eyes of world were on Glasgow and the future of our planet. As we now look forward to COP15 on biodiversity, innovative projects like this will showcase to the rest of the world how Scotland is leading the way in our action to tackle the twin crises of climate change and nature loss.”
Earthwatch Europe CEO Steve Andrews said:
“We are delighted to be working in partnership with NatureScot to expand the Wee Forest movement across Scotland. Getting communities involved in planting and ongoing citizen science at their local Wee Forest is an exciting opportunity to connect people with nature, whilst providing vital data on forest growth and environmental benefits.”
NatureScot Chief Executive Francesca Osowska said:
“Wee Forests are a fantastic way for people to connect with nature close to home. We’re delighted to see our demonstration project being extended to create many more pockets of nature-positive green space across our towns and cities, as a living legacy of COP26.
“And as we look towards COP15 and the huge challenge of halting and reversing nature loss, it’s projects like this that are giving communities the chance to help restore nature and tackle climate change by contributing to Scotland’s tree planting targets.”
NatureScot is working with Earthwatch to develop and deliver the Scottish Wee Forests Programme. As part of this, NatureScot is training Scottish Local Delivery Partners in the Wee Forest method and 20 Wee Forests will be planted from Ayrshire to Aberdeen in the winter of 2021/22. The first demonstration Wee Forest was planted at West Pilton Park in Edinburgh in October 2021. For a list of current planned Wee Forests see the NatureScot website.
Wee Forests are small, densely planted, fast growing, species-rich areas of new woodland that provide a space for outdoor learning and for communities to connect with nature.
The approach is based on an established forest management method developed in the 1970s by Dr Akira Miyawaki.
Wee Forests are part of the Tiny Forests programme, co-ordinated by Earthwatch.
Earthwatch is an international environmental non-profit organisation connecting people with scientists worldwide to conduct environmental research and empowering them with the knowledge they need to conserve the planet.
Scottish environmental organisations partnering on Wee Forests are: Dundee University Botanic Gardens, Edinburgh and Lothians Greenspace Trust, Aberdeen Council, The Conservation Volunteers, East Ayrshire Woodlands; and the Green Action Trust.