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Santa Monica Marks Two Microforest Firsts


Bob Kronovetrealty
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By Lookout Staff

April 25, 2024 -- Two "microforests" are springing up in Santa Monica to celebrate Earth Week -- marking what are likely two firsts for the nation.

On Thursday, Santa Monica College (SMC) unveiled the first microforest planted at a community college, and on Saturday, residents will help plant the first "median" microforest at 18th Street and Olympic Boulevard between 10 a.m and 2 p.m.

Microforests are "fast-growing, low maintenance, tiny preserves that mimic natural woodlands," said Amanda Grossman, sustainability analyst for the City.

"They are planted in small spaces in urban areas and feature a variety of densely planted native plants that form layers of vegetation, from underbrush to flowering shrubs to understory and shade-giving overstory trees."

The SMC microforest will cover some 300 square feet, according to the college's newsletter, SMC In Focus.

The small space, however, "will become a biodiverse habitat for the pollinating insects, birds and small animals that are so vital to our environment.

"The plants will also help clean the air of pollutants that cause climate change while helping cool the surrounding area."

According to SMC Director of Sustainability Ferris Kawar, “Microforests sequester carbon two and a half times faster than conventionally grown landscapes.”

The microforest’s planning, Kawar said, ensures that “some plants will grow to be very low to the ground, some medium and others tall, so they can all get sunlight.”

The SMC microforest will serve as "a living laboratory" for biology students, said Poliana Raymer, an associate professor of Life Sciences.

"Students will evaluate the microforest’s growth, observe the effects of microbes in the soil and see what insect and animal life the microforest attracts," Raymer said.

SMC Superintendent/President Dr. Kathryn E. Jeffery said, "Projects like this showcase how, throughout its history, SMC has been an early adopter of sustainability measures.

"After all, we are in the business of education, which requires testing new methods to improve the world we are leaving for our students,” Jeffery said.

Microforests were "pioneered in the urban densities of Japan," Grossman said. Their benefits "range from capturing stormwater and mitigating heat to sequestering carbon and improving biodiversity," she said.

The two projects are in partnership with the Malibu Foundation, a non-profit created to support "the community of Malibu and its neighbors as they work to rebuild and become more resilient after the Woolsey Fire," according to the organization's website.

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