Junior citizen science element in Miyawaki project

Murdoch University’s Dr Grey Coupland, from the Harry Butler Institute (HBI) has partnered with South Padbury Primary School to plant WA’s first “tiny forest”, following the Miyawaki planting method developed in Japan.

“Miyawaki forests are becoming increasingly popular for urban greening to rehabilitate degraded areas and increase biodiversity in urban areas,” Dr Coupland said.

“They contain up to 30 different native species planted in a dense planting arrangement and anecdotally, grow up to 20 times as fast as traditionally planted forests, and support up to 100 times the diversity.”

Dr Coupland said the project will help assess how well the Miyawaki method is suited to the Australian environment using Australian species, while also teaching primary school students the importance of citizen science.

South Padbury Primary School’s forest contains 26 Australian endemic species that will form four layers: a canopy, tree layer, sub-tree layer and shrub layer. It includes iconic species, such as grass trees, (Xanthorrhea preissii), a variety of eucalypt and Banksia species, as well as a range of smaller species, including Cockies tongues (Templetonia retusa).

“Partnering with local schools like South Padbury Primary School is an excellent opportunity to demonstrate that tiny forests can offer bite-sized local environmental action that can empower and engage communities, resulting in real environment outcomes,” Dr Coupland said.

Year 3s to 6s from South Padbury Primary School are taking part in the HBI-led research project, learning about urban sustainability issues and the environmental impact of climate change. The children will conduct monthly monitoring as citizen scientists, assessing plant growth rates, animal diversity and temperatures.

Dr Coupland said the project would run for an initial two years as she continues to investigate soil microbial activity and diversity. This information will be compared to data collected from adjacent natural vegetation to assess how well the Miyawaki forest is performing under Australian conditions.

“Importantly, this study will enable community decision and policy makers to inform future urban revegetation programs.”