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KSS students seek funds for Little Forest outdoor classroom

Namirah Quadir, Urban Student Trustee for the LDSB and Isadora Ferguson of Friday’s for Future Kingston, who both attend KSS, appear in a YouTube video. Still photo from YouTube.

Kingston Secondary School (KSS) students are asking for your help to plant a “Little Forest” outdoor classroom in Champlain Park.

Namirah Quadir, Urban Student Trustee for the Limestone District School Board (LDSB) and Isadora Ferguson of Friday’s for Future Kingston, both students at KSS, appear in a YouTube video asking for public support for the KSS Little Forest next to their school in Champlain Park.

A true forest contains dense multi layer planting of a shrub layer, sub-tree layer, tree layer and canopy layer, which is vastly different from monoculture planting seen in most city parks.  A Little Forest this size has 300 trees or shrubs representing 42 different species.

Ferguson explains the benefits of a tennis court sized forest in fighting biodiversity loss and climate change. It can capture up to 250 kg of carbon dioxide (CO2) per year, which is 30 times greater than a monoculture planting of the same size

Ferguson cites the Making Peace with Nature report by the United Nations, stating that in order to divert global warming, society must cut emissions of CO2 by 45 per cent by the year 2030.

The Little Forest will increase biodiversity, reduce noise pollution, improve air quality, increase soil moisture, and benefit the mental health of students as they “rebuild a relationship with nature,” points out Quadir.

According to the Little Forests Kingston page of the 1000 Islands Master Gardeners website, “At Kingston Secondary School, we want to plant a Little Forest outdoor classroom and pollinator garden to build a relationship between the natural world and our urban students. We’ll learn about biodiversity, climate change and Indigenous science as we nurture our Little Forest to maturity.”

Self described “tree lovers” Joyce Hostyn, Maureen Buchanan, Joanne Whitfield  and Astrid Muschalla set up the GoFundMe for the growing Little Forest community. 

Master Gardener Joyce Hostyn explained, “We are planting Little Forests of diverse trees and shrubs indigenous to this land and seed zone.”

“This area was at 90 per cent forest before colonization and we cut down the forests, and now we have very little forest cover left in the City of Kingston. Only 17 to 25 percent of our forest remains in our area,” said Hostyn.

“Old science thought only 10 per cent forest cover was required to support biodiversity,” Hostyn continued, “They now know that we need around 50 per cent forest cover.”  

Hostyn explained that “biodiversity, as the relationships of all species — That’s one of Kingston Little Forests’ most important motivators. This is some direct action that people can do. But for us, it’s more about restoring relationships with the land, with all the other species that live here — [things] humans have kind of forgotten about. Everything affects everything else.”

Towns and cities have traditionally done uniform planting of solo trees in widely spaced rows rather than layered forest. “We, in our cities, don’t really think about that, even when we’re landscaping our homes, that it’s not just for us, it’s for the birds it’s for the insects, it’s for the pollinators, it’s for everybody. We thought about trees as like solo objects, not as community beings that actually prefer to live together,” Hostyn expressed.

The Kingston Little Forests group will also be planting three other forests in Kingston this fall.

The sites of the four proposed Little Forests. Photo submitted by Little Forests Kingston

Little Forest Walking the Path to Peace (600 indigenous trees and shrubs, 39 species) Highway 15 location will be a space for ceremonial practice, learning Indigenous languages, and sharing a holistic understanding of the forest ecosystem. There are plans for Indigenous environmental education workshop series consistent with Indigenous pedagogical practice. This will be a series of teaching/sharing circles that explores Indigenous ways of knowing, rooted in the place we live.

Little Forest Lakeside (600 indigenous trees and shrubs, 49 species) will be an edible nut forest. It will be a space for cultivating a holistic understanding of an indigenous edible forest ecosystem and learning about nature-based solutions to the biodiversity and climate crises.

Little Forest Wolf Island will be at the North East corner of the Community Centre next to Marysville Public School and the United Church. It is meant to be a welcoming space in an otherwise unused area outside of the fenced baseball diamond. 

“Tree planting alone doesn’t invite biodiversity,” explained Hostyn, “Forests are complex, multi-layer plant communities. Forests are webs of relationships between plants, animals, fungi, birds, insects, bacteria and humans. Forests are home to 80 per cent of the world’s terrestrial biodiversity.”

Hostyn and her partners will be using the method developed by a Japanese expert in botany and forest ecology, Dr. Akira Miyawaki. His signature method for growing naturally biodiverse forests that can outgrow and outlast “monoculture forests,” which are single-species tree plantings.

“In Japan, they cut down most of their forests, and when they replanted,  like here, they did a lot of monoculture planting, which then got attacked by pests and disease. And so he’s discovered how we can speed up natural succession with natural succession. It can take 115 years for a forest to return naturally. But in this method, you plant three species per square metre,” and this encourages faster growth because the species actually grow faster to compete for the sun, Hostyn explicated .

“It’s a mix of cooperation and competition that speeds up their growth, so they grow much faster than when planted on their own,” she said.

Hostyn explained how they are using 100 per cent indigenous species to create a multi-layered forest, noting that, “This type of planning also helps the soil return… all the soil is like a whole complex ecosystem, as well — just as much or more life than above that species. So, with adding wood chips, with adding compost, adding a little bit of forest soil, we introduce some of that soil life — the extreme diversity of underground soil life in the forests.”

“We need to rethink what landscape is, and get out of this notion of trees in rows with grass, start seeing that they’re community beings,” she continued. “In planting Little Forests, we help the land remember. We invite home the many indigenous species we’ve lost since colonization. We grow our relationships with the other-than-human world.”

To help support Kingston Little Forests, buy the seedlings they need by visiting their GoFundMe fundraiser. 

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  • May 19, 2021 at 1:17 pm
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    Way to go girls, very important what you are doing. There are organizations in Kingston here to help you. The City has a tree planting program, Queens university and the Rotary Club are involved with trees. I am involved with a group who wants to expand green spaces, protect wetlands and increase the tree canopy through greening initiatives. I will pass this information along and see if we can help.
    Virginia Gordon
    [email protected]

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