30 Mar

The National Reforestation Programme conducted during the period 1962-1987 was primarily concerned with restoration of forests that were severely degraded due to overexploitation. Although many more tree species have been used to restore the degraded land, both poplars and pitch pine were the predominant species since they were most accessible and adaptable. Whereas poplars were extensively planted on flood plains and river banks, pitch pine was introduced to cover the denuded slopes to re-establish vegetation since it is very endurant to infertile soil. The reforestation program was quite successful in rehabilitation of the country. The total planted area of poplar reached a peak of about 700,000 hectares by the end of 1980. However, during the early 80's, the newly legislated "River Act"  strictly prohibited tree planting on flood plain because it might cause flooding during rainy season. Since then, poplar planting has steadily decreased to practically zero these days. Pitch pine was extensively planted on slopes to stop erosion during the period 1960-1998. The total planted area during the period was estimated 670,000 hectares. Now, most of them reached harvest age. However, besides its low quality and poor productivity, pitch pine proven to be very inadequate since it is very resinous and thus vulnerable to wildfires during dry season. It needs to be replaced with other economically more valuable and environmentally sounder species.

  Yellow poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera) introduced from the US was one of the reforestation choices and has been tested various regions in Korea. It outperformed all other species tested including native red pine, Korean white pine and oaks in the central to southern parts of the country.

In November 28, 2017, "framework act on forestry" was revised to include "the act on the management and improvement of carbon sink". The purpose of the Act was to respond to climate change by managing and improving the role of forests as carbon sinks pursuant to Article 55 of the Framework Act on Low Carbon, Green Growth and to contribute to the realization of a low carbon society. Together with larch, oaks, and cypress, yellow poplar is a core species for sustaining carbon absorption as well as timber production in the country. Every year, Korea Forest Service sets a goal of planting yellow poplar as one of several bio-energy species. The reforestation campaign is government driven and thus partially subsidized by the government. In the case of yellow poplar, massive plantings have been conducted since 2000. During the period 2016 to 2019 alone, more than 3.5 million seedlings of yellow poplar were planted in around 1,200 hectares each year. A similar level of planting is expected in the future until most of the old pitch pine stands are replaced. In addition, more than 60,000 mature yellow poplar trees were planted as roadside trees in 2016 and 2017 throughout the country. No planting data were collected on roadside trees for the years 2017 and 2018.

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