A mini forest is coming to Roosevelt Island

March 13, 2024

Images courtesy of SUGi

A mini forest that can prevent flooding during storms and build biodiversity is coming to Roosevelt Island. Conceived by global platform SUGi, the Manhattan Healing Forest will consist of 1,000 native trees, shrubs, and plants and measure just 2,700 square feet in Roosevelt Island’s Southpoint Park. The so-called “pocket forest” will be “strategically positioned to stabilize the land,” capture water, provide a habitat for wildlife, and serve as a “living barrier” against flooding and erosion.

Roosevelt Island’s forest will include 40 plant species, including white oak, Virginia strawberry, butternut, New York fern, and eastern white. The diverse selection of flora and fauna will serve as a “miniature lung” for Manhattan, as described by SUGi.

The forest will be planted using the Miyawaki method, created by Japanese botanist and plant ecologist Akira Miyawaki. Miyawaki won the Blue Planet Prize in 2006 for his work restoring forest ecosystems, as the New York Times reported.

The method begins with carefully preparing the land using compost and mulch, followed by planting native trees and shrubs close together, which encourages flora to grow quickly. When planted like this, the forests can become self-sufficient within three years and reach maturity within a few decades.

“Creating this pocket forest is an invitation to understand how rebuilding soil health positively affects the health of all surrounding life,” said Christina Delfico, founder of iDig2Learn, a nonprofit organization leading the installation, along with SUGi and the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation.

“Using this tight-knit planting Miyawaki Method to strengthen root connections which in turn boosts tree growth exponentially mirrors how diverse communities can come close together now and do this.”

Delfico added: “After all, New Yorkers understand crowded small spaces and if we can plant it here it can plant it anywhere.”

Miyawaki-style forests are already planted in hundreds of cities across the world. Though many are barely the size of a tennis court, the pocket forests create a variety of benefits, like floodwater absorption, a cooling effect in warm weather, and influencing the return of birds that had long vanished from the area. They also provide a habitat for insects and wildlife and clear the air by absorbing carbon.

The Manhattan Healing Forest will be the 200th forest planted by SUGi. The projects typically cost an average of $200 per ten square feet. 

Planting of the forest is scheduled to begin on April 6. Sign up to volunteer on planting day here.


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