New bill paves the way for urban forests in Korea

Expansion in urban forestation is vital for Korea, with a worrying 91% of the Korean population living in urban areas with insufficient greenery. For every person in Korea, there are 8.32 square meters of green land, which falls short of the 9 square meters per person standard set by the World Health Organization.

With revelations of various health and environmental benefits produced by urban forests, more citizens and companies have been actively participating in the nation’s urban forestation movement.

In the latest development, the National Assembly has passed a bill on the creation and management of urban forests, which will give momentum to the Urban Forest Development project overseen by the Korea Forest Service (KFS). Until now, the KFS and local governments have created and managed urban forests based on the Forest Resources Act. The new bill will strengthen the responsibilities of state and local governments. Heads of local governments will be required to make efforts to maintain and increase urban forest areas, while the state will be required to provide administrative and financial support.

Additionally, a legal basis has been laid to promote private participation. In order to reduce the financial burden on various levels of government, individuals, business and organisations will be encouraged to donate trees and land for the creation and management of urban forests.

Lee Yong-seok, Director of Urban Forest and Landscape at KFS, said, “The public is paying more attention to urban forests’ effectiveness on improving air quality due to fine dust.” 



Urban landscapes key to managing coronavirus stress

Coronavirus - trees

As the coronavirus pandemic sweeps the globe at a rapid rate, concern is rightly focused on our physical health. But what about the impact of such an event on our mental health? A saturation of fear-inducing media coverage coupled with the isolation of social distancing is a ripe environment for acute psychological stress and anxiety to grow.

As well as washing our hands and avoiding close physical contact with others to stop the spread, what can we do to protect our mental health? The benefits of getting outdoors and being in nature for mental wellbeing are proven and perhaps more important than ever.

We still need to keep our distance from others, but there are plenty of things we can do outside without being in close proximity to other people. A quiet walk through the bush. Sitting by a river. Gazing at an ancient tree. Feeling the sand between our toes on a secluded beach. Even being outside in our own backyards, earthing ourselves by walking barefoot on the grass. Being outside measurably lowers our stress levels within minutes which also – crucially at this time – increases our immune function.

For those living in urban areas, often in high rise apartments, proximity to nature is not always easy. So, now more than ever, our urban landscapes are so important. Inner-city parks, tree-lined streets and green walls can all be a source of comfort, calm and reassurance that Mother Nature will prevail and we too will endure.

The best tree species for reducing air pollution


It’s well established that urban trees reduce air pollution, along with a raft of other benefits. But when it comes to cutting pollution, all trees are not created equal. So, which species do the best job?

Recent research suggests that tiny hairs on plant leaves play a big role in trapping the solid and liquid particles that make up PM (particulate matter) which is responsible, by one estimate, for 8.9 deaths a year globally. In one recent study, Barbara Maher and colleagues at the University of Lancaster tested the ability of nine tree species to capture PM in wind-tunnel experiments. Silver birch, yew and elder trees were the most effective at capturing particles, with the hairs of their leaves contributing to reduction rates of 79%, 71% and 70% respectively. In contrast, nettles emerged as the least useful of the species studied, though they still captured a respectable 32%. Conifers, like pines and cypresses, are also good natural purifiers.

Ultimately though, it is context that determines if a species is beneficial or detrimental. “Even ‘best-performing trees’ may not work in some cases,” says Prashant Kumar, Founding Director of the Global Centre for Clean Air Research at the University of Surrey. “For example, we would not recommend planting yew near school playgrounds because it is poisonous.”

Stephanie Carlisle, an urban ecologist at the University of Pennsylvania, agrees, saying “Some designers have a tendency to think in terms of objects rather than a complex ecological system. But without a holistic understanding of urban ecosystems, the risk is to do more harm than good.”

In that sense, tree planting to tackle pollution is like many other aspects of urban design – the key to success lies in understanding local and environmental nuances. This is what determines whether urban trees are a breath of fresh air or a major headache.

Load More...