Feb 24, 2015

Growing a mature forest in ten years instead of 600 to 1000 years

Next Big Future
With his company Afforestt, eco-entrepreneur Shubhendu Sharma is creating mini-forest ecosystems using an accelerated method. It's based on the practices of Japanese forester Akira Miyawaki, as well as on Sharma's own experiences gleaned from his former career in car manufacturing.

Trees are planted close to each other to simulate natural conditions of growth and competitions. For the same reason, Afforestt plants trees randomly. This method has been developed by Dr. Akira Miyawaki after extensive and exhaustive research and has been proved to work in over 3000 locations, including Gobi Desert and Central Africa.

If a piece of land is free from human intervention, a forest will naturally self-seed and take over within a period of around 600 to 1,000 years. Akira Miyawaki's methodology amplifies that growth process to establish a mature, native forest in ten years.

It takes six steps.

1) you start with soil. We identify what nutrition the soil lacks. 
2) we identify what species we should be growing in this soil, depending on climate.
3) We then identify locally abundant biomass available in that region to give the soil whatever nourishment it needs. This is typically an agricultural or industrial byproduct — like chicken manure or press mud, a byproduct of sugar production — but it can be almost anything. We've made a rule that it must come from within 50 kilometers of the site, which means we have to be flexible. 

Once we've amended the soil to a depth of one meter

The soil is amended before saplings are planted. Photo: Afforestt

4. we plant saplings that are up to 80 cm high, packing them in very densely — three to five saplings per square meter. 

5. The forest itself must cover a 100-square-meter minimum area. This grows into a forest so dense that after eight months, sunlight can't reach the ground. At this point, every drop of rain that falls is conserved, and every leaf that falls is converted into humus. The more the forest grows, the more it generates nutrients for itself, accelerating growth. This density also means that individual trees begin competing for sunlight — another reason these forests grow so fast.

A freshly planted sapling. Photo: Afforestt

6. The forest needs to be watered and weeded for the first two or three years, at which point it becomes self-sustaining

But after that, it's best to disturb the forest as little as possible to allow its ecosystem — including animals — to become established.

An Afforest project transforms a barren piece of land into a lush, dense forest on a residential estate. Photo: Afforestt

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