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June 25, 2021

Dorroughby’s Pocket Forest not rocket science

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The DEEC Pocket Forest is about 9 x 10 metres, or roughly 23 people around. photo supplied.

With the world growing smaller by the day and technological devices that get us through the day shrinking by the minute, for the benefit of humans, it’s not surprising that we are learning how to downsize for the benefit of the planet.

The Dorroughby Environmental Education Centre (DEEC) is the newest members of a growing, prestigious international club –  the Pocket Forest club.

Unlike many ‘prestigious’ clubs this one sequesters carbon, creates habitat, and is a boon for local education.

DEEC teacher and Pocket Forest designer, Fionn Quinlan, says that Pocket Forests can grow up to ten times faster than conventional reforestation projects. ‘They also sequester more carbon, are far denser and have a far larger range of biodiversity. This is due in most part to the manner in which the planting mimics the natural patterning of an established forest.

Mr Quinlan said plants are placed densely enough to encourage upward growth as opposed to reaching outward. ‘There is also a preference for native and endemic species, which are best suited to the specified site.

The best part is they can be as small as a car parking space – hence the pocket in Pocket Forest.

DEEC teacher and Pocket Forest designer Fionn Quinland with Principle of DEEC Cindy Picton. Photo supplied.

Dr Akira Miyawaki’s idea

The idea of Pocket Forests was pioneered by Japanese botanist Dr Akira Miyawaki. ‘Dr Miyawaki combined the concepts of potential natural vegetation or PNV (which is another way of saying the plants that would occur in a certain area without human interference or a natural disaster), and phytosociology, which is the study of how plants interact.

‘When Dr. Miyawaki was starting out the best places for him to examine such interactions were often found around the Shinto shrines and sacred shrine forests of Japan.

Mr Quinlan says that the Miyawaki method has now been implemented in every inhabited continent. ‘Our forest is one of the first planted in New South Wales. The Dorroughby Environmental Education Centre will use the budding forest as an ongoing educational tool for studies in biodiversity and endemic ecology. We hope that the idea will spread further to be taken up by government and civilians alike.’

The DEEC pocket forest is roughly 9meters by 10 meters. ‘We had a group of students from Corndale primary school help us plant the 500 trees, along with other members of faculty. All up about 35 people helped.’

Most of the groundwork was done Quinlan, a friend and a friendly neighbour.

‘The forest will naturally get bigger, as roots grow, branches lean outward to reach for the sunlight etc. It will also grow in unintended ways such as creating habitat and food for birds and other critters which will invariably eat the seeds and carry them near and far.

Thirty-nine Big Scrub species

The Dorroughby Pocket Forest. Photo supplied.

‘All the plants in the forest are endemic Big Scrub species, over 39 in total. As we are working within a small space close to buildings we chose smaller trees such as some lilly pillys, and members of the mertaceae family. With the one large emergent in the centre being a Blue Quondong.’

Mr Quinlan imagines that in about two to three years the area will begin to look ‘forest like’. ‘We feel this forest, albeit small is immensely important. Many people and organisations express their desire for more trees though feel they need a large space to really make a difference. We can plant a beautiful little forest in an area the size of a single-car parking space.

Mr Quinlan says that some of the benefits of the forest are that it will: Support the water cycle; Mitigate desertification; Sequester  CO2; Provide O2; Conserve soil (mitigate erosion); Protect and create habitat; Provide food, medicine, and fibre, and; Create a healthier community

It will also give human and non-humans alike a place to live, play, adventure and connect.’

Mr Quinlan says that information about how to create your own pocket forest is readily available online.

Where to begin a pocket forest

The Dorroughby Environmental Education Centre.

The site at Dorroughby was what some have called a ‘White Mans Midden’ (a dump of sorts). ‘A glass was removed then we removed as much of the grass and other unwanted plant material. This included grass rhizomes (roots) as well as larger roots from the trees which were removed earlier in the process. The site was amended with coir peat and a blend of composted poultry manure, blood & bone, fish meal, seaweed, natural minerals and sulfate of potash. The site was then marked out at 1-meter square intervals ready for tree placement and planting.

Prior to the starting of the day, trees were placed in accordance with the Miyawaki spacing recommendations, of one large tree (canopy or emergent), two smaller trees and two understory/groundcover plants per square meter.

After an introduction to Dorroughby and an acknowledgment of country, students from Corndale Public School were shown a short video on the Pocket Forest phenomenon, given an introduction to the ideas pioneered by Akira Miyawaki and taken through the basic concepts of forest dynamics.

Everyone was shown how to plant a tree, as well as how to prepare the soil to give the trees the best chance at surviving. Students and teachers joined us in planting over 500 plants on site.

Once the trees were all planted, the site received a good soaking, and then 15 bales of straw were carefully placed around the trees. The straw mulch is used to retain moisture, deprive unwanted plants of sunlight, prevent erosion, protect the soil, and aid the growth of microbiota. 

‘Although having many years of experience with similar planting methodology this particular methodology is one of the first Pocket Forests to be planted in Australia and the first of a Big Scrub nature. It’s an honour to have been a part of it. With big thanks to Tamlin Heathwood for the push in the right direction and Matt Willis for your hard work in implementation. Understandably we’re pretty excited and eager to watch it grow!’

Species Planted include: 

Alchornea ilicifolia – Native Holy
Archontophoenix cunninghamiana – Bangalow Palm
Atractocarpus chartaceus – Narrow-leaved Gardenia
Austromyrtus dulcis – Midgim Berry
Backhousia citriodora – Lemon Myrtle
Backhousia myrtifolia – Cinnamon Myrtle
Cinamomum virens – Red Barked Sassafrass
Citrus australasica – Finger Lime
Cordyline congesta – Narrow-leaved Palm Lily
Cordyline petiolaris – Broad-leaved Palm Lily
Cordyline stricta – Slender Palm Lily
Cryptocarya laevigata – Glossy Laurel
Cupaniopsis parvifolia – Small Leaf Tuckaroo
Davidsonia jerseyana – Davidson’s Plum
Davidsonia johnsonii – Smooth Davidson’s Plum
Denhamia silvestris – Orange Bush
Dianella caerulea – Blue Flax-lily
Diospyros pentamera – Myrtle Ebony
Dysoxylum fraserianum – Rosewood
Elaeocarpus grandis – Blue Quandong
Elaeodendron australe – Red Olive-berry
Endiandra globosa – Black Walnut
Gossia bidwillii – Python Tree
Hymenosporum flavum – Native Frangipani
Linospadix monostachyos – Walking Stick Palm
Lomandra hysterix – Mat Rush
Macadamia tetraphylla – Rough Shelled Bush Nut
Mischocarpus pyriformis – Pear Fruited Tamirind
Neolitsea dealbata – Hairy Leaved Bolly Gum
Neolitsea australiensis – Green Bolly Gum
Notelaea longifolia – Mock-olive
Pararchidendron pruinosum – Snowwood
Psychotria daphnoides – Turkey Brush
Psydrax odorata – Shiny Leaved Canthium
Sarcopteryx stipata – Steelwood
Scolopia braunii – Flintwood
Sloanea australis – Maiden’s Blush
Syzygium leuhmanii – Riberry
Syzygium oleosum – Blue Lilly Pilly
Syzygium  smithii – Lilly Pilly

For more information about the DEEC and their Pocket Forest, visit: dorroughby-e.schools.nsw.gov.au.

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