Korea’ forests exhibit a high biodiversity, with many different plant species living
together. In addition many of these plants are found only in Korea. Plants or animals found only in a specific geographic area are said to be endemic. There are many reasons for the high diversity and endemism of Korea’ forests. The large north-south extent of the peninsula and the variety of landscapes and soils mean there is a diverse set of habitats that allow many different species to thrive. Another reason is historical. During the ice ages, glaciers sent many species into the peninsula for refuge from the cold and ice. So in Korea, older Tertiary plants were able to survive and to be joined by species from the north.
The major forest types are mapped below. Coniferous forests are composed mainly of evergreen trees with needles for leaves, such as pine and fir. Broadleaf forests are composed of deciduous trees that lose their leaves in winter. Examples include oaks, maples, and birches. Bamboo forests are actually composed of a large grass. Bamboos grow very quickly and can become as tall as other trees.
Korea is known for its success in combating land deforestation. Long years of slash-and-burn farming and firewood logging left many areas denuded of trees at the end of the 19th century. Without trees there were many problems with erosion, loss of habitat for animals, and scarcity of trees as a resource for humans. To remedy the situation afforestation (re-planting trees) and erosion control projects were initiated throughout the 20th century and continue today.