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 Ahn Min-joo&Park Su-min
Butterfly Effect, From Human Behavior to Coniferous Tree Withering
제 201 호    발행일 : 2021.12.06 

Recently, a withering group of coniferous forests was found in Korea. Kim Jin-won, who is a researcher and in charge of monitoring the climate change ecosystem of the Korea National Park Service, said that the group withering has begun since 2014~2015. Statistics on group withering obtained through monitoring show that the phenomenon of group withering in Jirisan Mountain increased by 3.7 times in 2018 compared to 2008, and by 5.8 times in 2016 compared to 2008 in Seoraksan Mountain.

[The Value of Coniferous Trees in Korea]
  According to Lee Hwa-yong, who is a professor of the Department of Forest Science at Chungbuk National University, coniferous trees have been of great value to Korea in ancient and modern times. Professor Lee said, “People in Korea seem to have been particularly attached to pine trees among many coniferous trees. In the past, when a baby was born, pine branches were threaded on a golden string, people lived in houses made of pine trees, and a bottle with pine branches was held up at wedding. During the Joseon Dynasty, there were Geumsan and Bongsan systems that the State designated and managed some pine forests. Therefore, coniferous trees have great value in Korea.” In addition, there is a type of coniferous tree called ‘Korean fir,’ which is widely loved around the world as a Christmas tree, and it can literally be seen everywhere at the end of the year. Korean firs have great value in that it is an endemic species that occur only in Korea. Therefore, the withering phenomenon of coniferous trees has been found in many places on the Korean Peninsula.

[The Cause of the Coniferous Tree Group Withering]
  What is the biggest cause of the coniferous withering? Some people claimed, “The reason is that hillsides are being cleared for solar power generation, and the installation of solar panels.” Many people were concerned about this, but Professor Lee refuted, “Solar power generation doesn’t seem to be the direct cause of coniferous forest withering, because solar power generation is not installed only where coniferous forests are located. Therefore, solar power generation doesn’t seem to be the direct cause of coniferous forest withering.” In fact, he took the position that, “It would be reasonable to rather see the current coniferous tree withering in Korea as caused by climate change.”
  Researcher Kim Jin-won said, “When I conducted a study on coniferous trees where the withering took place, I found that most of the 80~90-year-old trees were dying. While 80~90-year-old trees are undergoing aging, it is believed that the stress of environmental change, such as a decrease in snowfall, abnormally high temperatures and drought in spring, is taking its toll. In addition, conifers living in highlands have a shallow root system, and there are cases where the roots are pulled out because of frequent typhoons or strong winds,” pointing to two causes of the conifers’ death: ‘aging of trees’ and ‘climate change.’
  Professor Lee Hwa-yong and researcher Kim Jin-won both pointed out that the main cause of the death of coniferous trees is climate change. Climate change is a phenomenon in which the average temperature of the Earth changes, and according to Cornell University in the United States, more than 99% of studies agree that climate change is caused by humans. This means that in the end, human actions led to the withering of coniferous trees.

[Butterfly Effect]
  There was an episode about the ‘Butterfly Effect’ in MBC’s entertainment program ‘Infinite Challenge’ in 2010. In this episode, six of the seven members were divided into two groups and directed to live on two different sets in a studio, one being themed the Maldives and the other the Arctic. The sets were designed to simulate the conditions in these two regions, and the influence our actions have on their environment. The remaining member, whose name is Gill, remained at home living his life as per usual without knowing anything about the two groups. Gill’s house was rigged so that whenever he generated carbon by using a lot of energy, an alarm would ring, and heaters were turned on one by one, on the ice-based Arctic set. At this time, melting ice water from the Arctic set flowed along a connecting pipe into the Maldives set. At the end of the episode, half of the ice from the Arctic set melted, and the Maldives set was flooded with water rising up to the knees of the participants.
  The aim was not just to show how one’s daily life cause the emission of a lot of carbon, but to remind people of how their actions have a great impact on the Arctic and Maldives far away from Korea. This phenomenon is called the ‘Butterfly Effect,’ in the sense that even small wings can cause a tremendous phenomenon. People shouldn’t forget that because of this effect, their behavior affects coniferous trees living in the subalpine-alpine regions such as Jirisan Mountain and Seoraksan Mountain. The actions people are taking can inadvertently lead to the death of coniferous trees.

[How to Protect Coniferous Trees]
  What are some ways to protect coniferous trees? The Korea Forest Service announced conservation measures for coniferous species such as Korean fir, spruce, yew, Dwarf juniper, creeping pine, and Korean arborvitae. Strategies include upgrading the monitoring system for alpine coniferous species and establishing and restoring health foundations for alpine coniferous species. Based on this, the Korea Forest Service is conducting a project to plant seedlings in places where coniferous forests are in decline, and to restore them.
  However, it is said that these newly planted trees are struggling because they don’t grow properly. Researcher Kim commented, “In fact, there is no conclusive result, but I think it is a trial-and-error effort in obtaining a way to restore young trees, and it is difficult to restore them because young trees have not yet experienced the aforementioned droughts, typhoons, or strong winds. Plus, I think the restoration project is fundamentally necessary because of the historical and national importance of Korean firs. The group withering of Korean firs that only grow in Korea continues, and if the Korean firs die and disappear, the species will become extinct. I think a restoration project is necessary to save these old trees,” stressing the importance of the Korea Forest Service’s restoration project. In addition, “In the Korea National Park Service, coniferous forests serve as habitats in high altitude subalpine-alpine areas. There are no studies being conducted currently to prevent coniferous forest groups from withering, but I’m monitoring the climate change ecosystem. In particular, I’m conducting a phenomenon study on how many coniferous trees die every year and why they are under stress in the subalpine area,” she said, referring to what the Korea National Park Service does to protect coniferous trees.
  In addition, Professor Lee said “From the distant past, humans have been working to change forests by artificially managing them. This is called ‘artificial regeneration,’ and if people leave the forest where the current coniferous trees die, one day a different forest will be established. When a coniferous tree of a certain species begins to die in an area, it can be taken as a sign that has become difficult for the species to inhabit that particular area. Therefore, it seems to be a way to protect conifers by planting different types of conifers suitable for the environment of the area where the conifers have died and renewing them by applying artificial efforts. Of course, the coniferous forest conservation policies of the Korea Forest Service should be implemented at the same time.”
  Not only national institutions, such as the Korea National Park Service or Korea Forest Service, but also citizen scientists and local residents are making various efforts to protect coniferous trees. If so, what can citizens do? As seen from the above, the cause of coniferous tree withering is ‘Climate Change,’ and the climate change comes from daily life that produces a lot of carbon. Therefore, in order to protect coniferous trees, people need to pay attention to the mass extinction phenomenon of coniferous forests and consciously reduce carbon emissions.

[Conclusion]
  Through this article, it is confirmed that the withering of coniferous trees is a direct result of human activity much like the so-called butterfly effect. According to researcher Kim, the group withering of coniferous trees seems to have already started around 2014~2015, but the sad fact is that as of the end of 2021, many people are not yet aware that tree group withering is occurring.
  The reporters hope readers will have time to reflect on how much they knew about the coniferous group withering, whether they have emitted a lot of carbon in their daily lives, and how the carbon they have emitted may have affected climate change.


By Ahn Min-joo | mj40@cbnu.ac.kr
By Park Su-min | psm0129@cbnu.ac.kr

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