Ecological Research

, Volume 19, Issue 1, pp 43–54 | Cite as

Forest responses to the large-scale east coast fires in Korea

  • Yeonsook CHOUNG
  • Byung-Chun LEE
  • Jae-Hyoung CHO
  • Kyu-Song LEE
  • In-Soo JANG
  • Sun-Hee KIM
  • Sun-Kee HONG
  • Hui-Cheul JUNG
  • Heung-Lak CHOUNG
Part I. Ecology in multi-scale approaches and objectives

The east coast forest fires of April 2000 were Korea’s largest recorded fires. This, along with the fact that they took place in the region most frequently affected by fire, attracted a great deal of attention. Due to the variations in wind, topography and pre-fire forest stands, a heterogeneous landscape mosaic of burn severity was created across the region. It turned out to be an excellent opportunity to study various landscape-scale impacts of fires on forest dynamics. Therefore, we investigated stands in the 23 794 ha of burned forest region, in terms of burn severity, vegetation regeneration and forested landscape change as a measure of community stability. Using the geographic information system technique, we analyzed the differential severity and post-fire recovery of pre-fire forest types of different stand age both at stand and species level. Analysis showed that pre-fire vegetation was composed of mainly pine (Pinus densiflora) stands that occupied 70% of the whole forested area, while pine-hardwood and hardwood stands occupied only 28% and 3%, respectively. In addition, two-thirds of all stands were less than 30-years-old. Pine stands were the most severely burned, while conversely pine-hardwood and hardwood stands were less vulnerable. This implied that pine forests had fire-prone characteristics. Vegetation recovery went the opposite way; that is, the regenerating vegetation cover was 71% at pre-fire hardwood stands, and 65% and 53% at pine-hardwood and pine stands, respectively. However, these recovery rates were strikingly fast, considering that investigation took place about 3 months after the fires. Fire did not initiate successional processes, but tended to accelerate the predicted successional changes by releasing pre-fire understory species that survived the fires and regenerated by sprouting. The dominant pre-fire tree species (P. densiflora) was susceptible to fire and not resilient enough to reestablish in competition with oak species. Contrary to pines, the abilities of oak species, mainly Quercus mongolica and Q. variabilis, to survive fires and to resprout vigorously made them dominant at most post-fire stands. These shifts in species abundance caused drastic changes to the landscape: from pine-dominated to oak-dominated stands without any notable change in species composition. The patterns in forest regeneration that we observed in Korea may be representative of forest responses to any long-term repeated disturbances, including fire.

Key words

forest fire landscape change Pinus densiflora regeneration susceptibility 

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Copyright information

© Blackwell Publishing Ltd 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Yeonsook CHOUNG
    • 1
  • Byung-Chun LEE
    • 2
  • Jae-Hyoung CHO
    • 2
  • Kyu-Song LEE
    • 3
  • In-Soo JANG
    • 4
  • Sun-Hee KIM
    • 5
  • Sun-Kee HONG
    • 6
  • Hui-Cheul JUNG
    • 7
  • Heung-Lak CHOUNG
    • 7
  1. 1.Kangwon National UniversityChuncheonKorea
  2. 2.Korea Forest Research InstituteSeoulKorea
  3. 3.Kangnung National UniversityGangneungKorea
  4. 4.Natural Environmental Restoration InstituteDaejeonKorea
  5. 5.Donghae UniversityDonghaeKorea
  6. 6.Seoul National UniversitySeoulKorea
  7. 7.Korea Environment InstituteSeoulKorea

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