This paper shows an example of substantial increase in carbon emissions from forest fires after reforestation on a national scale. It is the first estimation of historical carbon emissions from forest fires in Korea during the last 40 years. Investigation was focused on the recent increase in large forest fires and its closely related factors. A simple modeling approach to estimate carbon emission was applied. The direct carbon emission from forest fires in 2000, ranging from 115 to 300 Gg C, corresponds to 1-3% of the annual carbon uptake by forests. The influence of forest fires on the carbon cycle in Korea is not so significant, but Korean forests have a large potential for generating severe local fires due to increasing forest carbon density and a high forest area ratio (forest area/total land area) of 65%. The carbon emission per area burned (Mg C ha- 1) clearly reflects the trend toward increases in the number of severe fires. Statistical analyses and the trends of annual temperature and precipitation show that the recent large increase in carbon emissions may be the negative consequences of intensive forest regrowth that is the product of successful reforestation and forest management programs rather than the effect of climate change. These results imply a need for further studies in other countries, where large-scale plantation has been conducted, to evaluate the role of plantation and forest fires on the global carbon cycle. © 2006 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
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