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Politics of forest fragmentation: a multiscale analysis on the change in the structure of forest landscape in the North and South Korean border region

Sung, Chan Yong, Park, Cheon-Bo, Kim, Jong-Sub
Regional environmental change 2019 v.19 no.1 pp. 137-147
Landsat, abandoned land, agricultural land, conservation areas, deforestation, forest maps, forest regeneration, forests, habitat fragmentation, infrastructure, land use, landscapes, politics
In this paper, we examine the changes in forest structures in the demilitarized zone (DMZ) and surrounding areas with different civilian access restrictions in the North and South Korean border region during a 23-year study period from 1992 to 2015 (four to six decades after the end of the Korean War). Forest maps were derived from Landsat images, and forest structures were assessed at multiple spatial scales using lacunarity analysis. The results show that the forest structures changed over the 23-year study period, but the directions of change varied according to the degrees of access restriction. Strict access restriction to the DMZ mitigated small-scale forest fragmentation because forests were regenerated on abandoned farmlands. In spite of the small-scale forest regeneration, infrastructure development associated with the economic cooperation between North and South Koreas in the 2000s aggravated large-scale forest fragmentation in the DMZ. Forest fragmentation was even more serious in the surrounding areas where civilian access is allowed because of farmland and suburban developments. These findings reveal the need to adopt a land use regulation system, such as transboundary protected areas, in the North and South Korean border region, to prevent deforestation under the present divided condition as well as under the one after Korean reunification.