Micro-forest inspired by rare rainforest pockets

Moruya is a small New South Wales town nestled between coast and hills. It’s home to the Yuin nation.

In 2016, inspired by the mild climate, my partner and I bought land at the town’s edge. Our plan was to build our first home and garden together. Little did I know that one day I would make a micro-forest in our newly adopted town.

Micro-forest projects start in Canberra

I’d spent the last 30 years living and working in Canberra. I knew the local plant communities of the nation’s capital well. In 2019, after experiencing the hottest and driest year on record I started the social enterprise, The Climate Factory.

I wanted to tell my (future) grandchildren that I tried to do something about climate change.

Being a Landscape Architect and also trained in ecology I knew the power of plant life. My goal was to build at least one micro-forests or tiny forest in public space to cool the landscape.

Miyawaki method influences micro-forest projects

I was influenced by the Miyawaki method of organic soil preparation and dense planting. However, I didn’t follow the method strictly. The method calls for a natural forest community to be replicated in miniature.

In Canberra, I felt hamstrung. Most forests surrounding Canberra are dominated by Eucalyptus or Gum trees. I was sure planting Eucalypts in suburbia would alarm citizens due to their potential bushfire risk. Instead I chose small native trees with low flammability.

Black Summer Fires

2019, Australia’s hottest and driest year on record, culminated in the Black Summer fires. The fires burned 24 million hectares, killed 33 people and millions of animals.

As 2019 drew to a close we watched Moruya crackle. Rainforest species looked like skeletons. Tree ferns were chocolate brown and limp. Fire ripped through the region burning everything in its path.

A fiery end to 2019. The Moruya Micro-forest will be built at St John’s pictured top right.

Why not build a rainforest inspired tiny forest?

Post fires we’ve experienced three La Ninas and vigorous bush regeneration. After planning and making three micro-forests I was ready for a new challenge. Why not build a micro-forest in Moruya? And why not replicate an endangered rainforest community?

Local remnant patches inspire micro-forest project

Unfamiliar with local rainforest species I combed the web. I discovered two types of endangered local rainforest in Eurobodalla. The first was Coastal Rainforest and the second was Dry Rainforest. A good example of Coastal Rainforest occurs at Chatham Park, Tuross Heads.

For a nature nerd, this 30 acre site is a delight. It was set aside by the land developer, Hector McWilliam.

It’s lush with narrow paths winding through dense vegetation. There are welcome signs and bridges. You can hear the ocean but can’t see it.

This Coachwood, Ceratopetalum apetalum, grows in Coastal and Dry Rainforest. We will grow them in the Moruya Micro-forest.

Rainforest trees and ferns

Within the park are rainforest trees like the striped-trunk Coachwood, Ceratopetalum apetalum and the fruit bearing Plum pine, Podocarpus elatus. And plenty of Yellow stringybark, Eucalyptus muellerana.

Gracing the trees are the ephiphytic fern, Elkhorn, Playtycerium bifurcatum. On the forest floor a groundcovers, including Kidney Weed, Dichondra repens and ferns like the Maidenhair and Doodia aspera.

While coastal rainforest occurs within two kilometres of the coast, dry rainforest sits further inland.

With local experts we visited two private properties on Moruya’s south. Each property contained remnant patches of rainforest. The rainforests tend to be on steep slopes around creeks.

Figs, ferns and orchids grow in a nearby remnant Dry Rainforest. These plants will be grown in Moruya’s micro-forest.

This ecosystem is dominated by Ficus rubignosa or Port Jackson Fig. At one property we marvelled at these giant figs growing on granite boulders. Boulders were also clothed with Rock Orchids, Dendrobium speciosum and ferns.

These remnant forest patches are shady, green and delightful. Our team wants to recreate this look and feel in the Moruya township.

The Moruya micro-forest will help tackle climate change

The Moruya micro-forest is located within the grounds of St John’s Anglican Church. It will be planted with 1500 rainforest and pollinator plants.

As the micro-forest grows it will become an outdoor heatwave haven and a venue for community gatherings. The combination of dense planting and water harvesting will create a cool space during climate change linked heatwaves.

Over 2022/23 the volunteer leadership team raised $25,000 from crowdfunding, a car boot sale and a high tea at the Post and Telegraph.

Earthworks and planting occurred in May 2023. Three years of La Nina weather patterns are finished. We will plant the remainder of the dry rainforest in spring 2023.

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