What is a Micro-Forest and why are they cropping up around Canberra? | HerCanberra

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What is a Micro-Forest and why are they cropping up around Canberra?

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A Micro-Forest might sound like a strange goal in a city as nature-dense as Canberra.

But chatting to Elizabeth Adcock and Purdie Bowden, the project co-leads on the new Watson Micro-Forest, you’ll soon learn that there’s nothing micro about the benefits of these green spaces.

But first—what exactly is a Micro-Forest?

“A Micro-Forest is an urban sanctuary—a dense pocket of vegetation in the city or the suburbs,” explains Purdie. “It contains trees, shrubs, climbers, groundcovers densely planted to create a mini-ecosystem that has a cooling effect and dramatically improves the amenity of the area.”

Taking their lead from the Downer Micro-Forest, which was created in 2020 and led by Edwina Robinson from the Climate Factory, Elizabeth and Purdie launched a crowdfunding campaign for their own Micro-Forest alongside a group of volunteers, which raised $52,992.

Purdie and Elizabeth with their children.

The Watson Micro-Forest is planned for the Wade Street Park in Watson and it’s Elizabeth and Purdie’s hope that what is currently a large stretch of scrubby grass will be transformed into a densely green space that will include a forest classroom, nature play for kids and other amenities which will be determined through community consultation and co-design, with the first community design workshop happening on 31 March.

With the project now in the design phase, The Watson Micro-Forest is holding a fundraising dinner this Sunday 21 March at Watson’s The Knox Cafe, where you can support the project while enjoying a sustainably and locally-sourced three-course meal.

Meet your neighbours over shared platters, or take your dinner outside and enjoy the spread as a picnic with live music from Lisa Richards and ABC Canberra’s James Vyver as emcee. Tickets are from $45-$89 and can be purchased via Eventbrite.

“The opportunity to partner with the Watson Micro-Forest is a perfect match for The Knox,” says fellow Watson Micro-Forest team member Joani Cornish. “Owner Daniel Conroy is particularly passionate about real community connection, face to face, not the kind that happens on screen. He jumped at the chance to create a delicious menu and host local residents and supporters.”

For Purdie and Elizabeth, it’s all about fostering community in Watson and giving back to the land.

“This project is about strengthening community,” says Purdie. “It relies on volunteers at every stage—funding, landscape design, planting the seedlings, and caring for the plants. We want the Micro-Forest project to bring people together to meet new friends, learn new skills, re-connect with nature and feel like they can make a difference.”

“We are also partnering with Majura Pre-school and the Majura Primary community to engage children in the design, and hope they will come to use and love the micro-forest including its outdoor classroom and nature playscape,” adds Elizabeth. “Likewise, we want Indigenous culture to feature in the micro-forest including through bush tucker plantings.”

“The Watson Micro-forest will provide habitat for native species, absorb carbon, and cool the local environment by up to six degrees, helping to reverse the urban heat island effect.”

“Many people want to make a difference and take action on issues like climate change and habitat loss, creating a Micro-Forest is a way that people can really see and be part of the change.”

The Watson Micro-Forest team with their dogs.

This mammoth effort isn’t even Elizabeth and Purdie’s day job—Elizabeth is a lead digital experience designer at ThinkPlace and Purdie works in international development finance at the Department of Foreign Affairs and also heads up play advocacy group All Play Inner North. But they share a common goal—to change the future of the world their young children will inherit, one Micro-Forest at a time.

“I have always loved our natural spaces as a way to connect to the environment but also our community and families,” says Elizabeth. “It’s these spaces that give me joy to spend time in and I have always felt the need to nurture these spaces more, the feeling was amplified once having kids as it was hard finding local engaging spaces that allow for exploration, connection to others and education.”

But Purdie and Elizabeth won’t be stopping at just one Micro-Forest.

“Along with Edwina Robinson from the Climate Factory and WMF volunteer Joani Cornish, we hope to inspire the creation of a Micro-Forest in every local park, and are working with government, business and community groups to help this happen,” says Purdie.

“Our vision is that the Watson Micro-Forest will help green local spaces and strengthen community not just in Watson, but all over Canberra and—who knows—maybe Australia!”

Find out more about The Watson Micro-Forest Dinner via Eventbrite

Find out more about The Watson Micro-Forest at watsonmicroforest.com

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