Conservation and Management of Areas with Excellent Natural Environment


Management of Nature Conservation Areas

In order to conserve areas with excellent natural environment, possible  damage is prevented by i) designating such  areas as Ecological Scenery Conservation Areas, Wetland Protected Areas, Special Islands, etc., and ii) restricting construction and land type conversion. Also, to stop further damage to the impaired areas, prevention facilities and rehabilitation projects are being carried out. Furthermore, a systematic management of conservation areas  including ‘the basic plan for management of scenery conservation areas’ and ‘the wetlands conservation plan’ is established and implemented.

In those areas designated as nature conservation areas, construction and  extension of buildings as well as land type conversion are peremptorily restricted, and when necessary, access is prohibited or only limited access is allowed. In addition, conservation areas are strictly managed with restrictions, under which the violators are subject to find and become liable to restore the original condition. Also, private lands in conservation areas are purchased by the state through negotiations with the owners.


Management of Natural Parks

Korean natural parks are small in size compared to those in foreign countries and are mainly composed of mountains. Since the designation of Mt. Jiri as the first national park in 1967, major areas of the country with excellent ecosystems have been protected as natural parks. The high population density in the country creates a great multitude of visitors as shown in the fact that national parks alone have 40 million visitors each year. Accordingly, efforts are made to meet the public expectation by upgrading the tour services as well as the level of conservation.

Korea National Park Service (KNPS) works to preserve natural ecosystems, scenery, and historical sites in national parks and manage visitors. Moreover, KNPS conducts investigation and research on natural resources for effective management of natural ecosystems, and pushes for ecosystem restoration in areas damaged from excessive number of visitors and abusive use. As a part of the efforts, KNPS designates those areas inhabited by a number of endangered species or with an excellent ecosystem as special protection zones and restricts the access.

As visitors of national parks multiplied with the abolition of the admission fee in 2007, visitor management staff were allocated in principal areas to reinforce prohibition of using by-paths and crackdown on illegal acts. Also, to ensure visitors' pleasant tour, upgraded tour guide services have been provided while more amenities are secured in the parks. Currently, 9 Visitor Information Centers, 77 Tour Support Centers, 78 Nature Observation Trails, 2 Nature Learning Facilities, and 300 Eco-guides are in service, while various ecological interpretation programs are provided. Additionally, enhanced explanation is available on the historical and cultural resources in national parks, while special programs themed to the characteristics of each park are provided.

National parks in Korea include high percentage of privately-owned land (19%) and a number of developed areas. Through the adjustment of the national park areas between 2010 and 2011, 207km2 of the already-developed private land was excluded while 130km2 of state-owned or public land with excellent vegetation was newly included. In the meantime, the purchase of the privately-owned land within the parks has been continued, resulting in the acquisition of 6km2 for last six years.

While the national park management in the past was mainly focused on the conservation of biodiversity and areas with excellent natural scenery, Geopark certification program was introduced in 2011 to ensure a systematic conservation of topographical and geological resources. With regard to Geopark, i) certification standards will be established to assess candidates, ii) a system will be set up for monitoring and follow-up management of certified Geoparks, and iii) Geotourism programs tapping into topographical and geological resources will be developed and distributed.

The year 2012 saw the completion of 'the First Basic Plan on Natural Parks', which had been prepared for a decade (from 2003 to 2012), and the establishment of the Second Basic Plan to be implemented for next decade starting in 2013. As the goal to be achieved in 2022, a decade from now, the current Basic Plan presents the following: 159m2 as national park area per capita (as compared to the current 139m2), 63.29 million visitors to national parks (as compared to the current 40.80 million visitors), and 45,000 persons employed from surrounding area (as compared to the current 29,000 persons).


Construction of Ecological Networks on the Korean Peninsula

The government has established a nationwide ecological network in order to enhance ecosystems which were damaged by large-scale development and intensive growth strategies. Three Major Ecological Networks in the Korean Peninsula ― Mt. Baekdudaegan range, demilitarized zone [DMZ], and coastal and islands areas ― have been established to restore damaged and disconnected habitat patches, which are exposed in a fragile condition. In particular, conservation of ecosystems and development of eco-tour are promoted through the establishment of management plan for ecosystem conservation and wise use in the DMZ, which represents great historical and ecological sites.

Meanwhile, the National Comprehensive Environmental Plan (2006-2015) divides the territory into five regions, and conceives five wide-area ecological axes based on the five regions in connection with the three core ecological axes. Afterwards, to specify boundaries, years of research were carried out and 'the Plan for Building Ecological Axes on the Korean Peninsula' was established in 2010. According to the Plan, the five wide-area ecological axes were designed to manage forest (50,198㎢), aquatic ecosystem (5,196㎢), and areas with wild animals (3,745㎢), and it has developed to the conception of Ecological Networks on the Korean Peninsula connecting mountains, rivers, and seas.

For the construction of the Ecological Networks on the Korean Peninsula,  protected areas will be expanded and the restoration of damaged ecosystems will be reinforced. In this respect, the Ministry of Environment is pushing for the following: purchase and restoration of damaged or disconnected areas on principal ecological axes, restriction on development, inclusion of Baekdudaegan and habitats for migratory birds into protected areas, creation of eco-tour routes that connect wide-area ecological axes and urban ecological axes, and creation of urban biotopes (such as ecological ponds, green alleys, and green roofs).


Conservation of Biodiversity


Protection of Wildlife

The Ministry of Environment carries out a variety of projects for protecting and managing wildlife with the policy goal of 'creating a sound natural environment where humans and wildlife coexist'. The policy for protecting wildlife is implemented in three principal directions: ⑴ to increase wildlife population and its density, ⑵ to decrease the population and density of wildlife causing conflicts with and damage to humans, and ⑶ to keep up monitoring to check whether an optimum wildlife population and density are maintained. The projects implemented for wildlife protection include the installation and operation of Wild Animals Rescue Center, prevention of damage to wild animals, protection of migratory birds through a contract for managing biodiversity, support for ex-situ conservation institutions, and crackdown on poaching. Also, surveys on population density is conducted for wildlife management which includes monitoring of ecosystem disturbing species, census of winter migratory birds, and survey on the inhabitation status of wild animals and endangered species.


 Korea prohibits poaching of most mammals, birds, amphibians, and reptiles living in the wilds. Furthermore, the government and private sector jointly organize and operate poacher watch groups to uproot poaching and trafficking. Poaching and trafficking have steadily dwindled since 2001, and in that regard, awareness campaign and poaching crackdown will continue.

Much effort is being made in rescuing and caring for wounded wild animals. First founded in 2004, there are currently a total of 11 Wild Animals Rescue Centers, which will be increased to 16 by 2015. Every year, over 5,000 wild animals are rescued and treated, and recovered individuals undergo rehabilitation training before they are released into nature.

Hunting is under strict supervision, being allowed only in authorized areas in winter. The type and number of huntable wild animals are specified, and hunters should acquire a license. As for boars and magpies that continue to proliferate and cause damage to farming and power supply facilities, hunting is frequently performed besides in the winter to control their population.

There are 1,128 alien animal and plant species naturally or artificially introduced into Korea. Among them, 16 species that disturb ecosystem and encroach on endemic species are designated as Invasive Alien Species for control purpose. Typical Invasive Alien Species are the red-eared slide (Trachemys scripta elegans) and largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoide) which recklessly devour aquatic insects, fish, and frogs, resulting in the degradation of the freshwater ecosystem and decline in the number of indigenous species. Invasive Alien Species are prohibited from being planted or released into nature, and restricted from being imported except for research purpose. In addition, the Ministry of Environment, local governments, and private groups are carrying out efforts to exterminate and eliminate ecosystem disturbing species.

A Schematic View of Wildlife Protection Activities
 

Protection of Endangered Species and Migratory Birds

Protection of endangered wildlife constitutes the core policy for conserving biodiversity in Korea. Currently, surveys are conducted on the distribution of 246 endangered wildlife species, while their habitats are under maximum protection. Those who illegally hunt or collect endangered wildlife species are subject to a sentence of up to 5 years in prison or a fine up to KRW 30 million. As a major importer of biological resources, Korea is a signatory of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) designed to protect endangered wildlife species from international commercial trade.

As for 43 endangered wildlife species that require extra care in addition to protection of the habitats, restorative measures are established and implemented. For example, since there had been only 5 Asiatic black bears left in Mt. Jiri under high risk of extinction, 34 Asiatic black bears were imported and released to nature until 2012. As 10 or so mountain goats had been living in Mt. Worak faced with extinction due to inbreeding, a project is under way to restore genetic diversity by getting individuals from other regions and releasing them into the area. Meanwhile, to ensure ex-situ proliferation and conservation of endangered wildlife species, 22 ex-situ conservation institutions are designated and supported.
Of all birds reported to inhabit Korea, there are 391 migratory birds (86%), with 337 of them visiting Russia, 281 visiting Japan, 337 visiting China, and 59 visiting Australia. In this light, Korea signed bilateral agreements on the protection of migratory birds with Russia in 1994, with Australia in 2006, and with China in 2007. Furthermore, in 2008, the city of Incheon hosted the Secretariat of East Asian-Australasian Flyway Partnership (EAAFP).


Survey and Research on Natural Environment


Survey and Research on Biodiversity

In mid-1990s, about 30,000 species were recorded to inhabit the Korean Peninsula. Korea is implementing a national project for surveying and listing the species in order to identify the species living across the Korean Peninsula and to upgrade the capacity for biological classification. As of 2012, 39,150 species were identified in Korea, and a total of 60,000 species will be recognized by 2020.
In 2007, the Ministry of Environment established National Institute of Biological Resources (NIBR), where 60 or so taxonomists work. As NIBR compiles past researches and intensifies the survey on biodiversity, the number of identified species in Korea is sharply increasing. Furthermore, NIBR contributes to capacity building on biological classification by carrying out survey and research on biodiversity in Cambodia, Laos, China, Mongolia, and Russia and fostering specialists in each of the countries through bilateral cooperation.


The Korean government is increasing its investment in expanding the infrastructure for biodiversity research. Apart from NIBR established by the  Ministry of Environment, three biodiversity research institutions are slated to be built (with one of them currently under construction), and the Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries is building National Institute of Marine Biological Resources (NIMBR). With these research institutions going into service starting in mid-2010s, it is expected that Korea's biodiversity research capacity will be greatly upgraded, thereby contributing to the conservation of biodiversity in neighboring Asian countries.


Survey and Research on Natural Environment

The survey and research on natural environment has a great significance as a basis for establishing and implementing policy for conservation of natural environment. Currently conducted surveys and researches on natural environment are divided into National Ecosystem Survey, Intensive Surveys of Valuable Ecosystems, Survey of Endangered Species, and National Long-Term Ecological Research (NLTER), which are led by National Institute of Environmental Research (NIER) through partnership with National Institute of Biological Resources (NIBR).

As a comprehensive country-wide survey of natural environment performed every five years based on 「Natural Environment Conservation Act」, 'National Ecosystem Survey proceeds in the way of investigating certain segments of the country covering total nine categories: land forms, vegetation, flora, benthic macroinvertebrates, terrestrial insects, freshwater fish, amphibians and reptiles, birds, and mammals. First started in 1986, the survey will finish its third round by 2013. The fourth survey will be started in 2014 and conducted for the following five years.

However, the map-based National Ecosystem Survey does not qualify as in-depth survey of specific ecological areas or endangered species. Accordingly, 'Intensive Surveys of Valuable Ecosystems' and 'Survey of Endangered Species' are separately conducted. Intensive Survey of Valuable Ecosystem is a close examination based on the characteristics and location of ecosystems covering nine areas; starting in 2002 with Survey on Natural Caves, it is expanded to National Coastal Dunes Survey, Estuary Ecosystem Survey, Inland Wetland Survey, Survey on Mt. Baekdudaegan Reserve, Survey on Wetland Protected Areas, Ecosystem Survey on Uninhabited Islands, Special Islands Survey, and Survey on Areas of Valuable Ecosystem and Landscape. Survey of Endangered Species targets 246 currently designated species, as it continues to monitor the location of habitat, size of distribution area, population and threats for each species. The results of the investigation are reflected in designation and undesignation of legally protected species.

In the meantime, KNLTER is being carried out for monitoring the changes in the ecosystem due to climate change. Average temperature of the earth rose by 0.5 degrees in the 20th century, however, climate change appears to be more severe on the Korean Peninsula, with temperature rising by 1.0 to 1.5 degrees in South Korea and 1.9 degrees in North. Starting in 2004, KNLTER has been carried out for three decades (in three 10-year stages) to ensure a medium- and long-term monitoring of changes in ecosystems due to climate change, and to cope with the decline of species and changes in ecosystems. Currently, the first stage of research is under way, with land, freshwater, coastal, and animal ecosystems being monitored in 19 locations across the country.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Environment has built GIS-DB on Natural Environment based on research results drawn from natural environment survey. Notably, by using Actual Vegetation Map and Distribution Map of Flora and Fauna, the Ministry has classified the entire territory into three categories according to ecological value, based on which the National Map of the Ecology and Nature with the scale of 1:25,000 has been created. The GIS-DB is open to the public on the Internet (Environmental Geographic Information Service [EGIS]; http://egis.me.go.kr). It is used as basic data for environmental impact assessment in various development projects.


Last modified : 2013-10-29 15:50

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