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Species diversity and use of biological resources

Korean Pine - the Tree of Life

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Korean pine (Pinus koraiensis) is the most notable endemic tree species in North-East Asia.  This is a mighty tree, 35-40 meters tall whose trunk is 1-2 meters.  It is praised for pine-nuts of exceptional nutritional quality, a staple food for many animal species and local people. Korean pine starts producing large amounts of nuts when it reaches 100 years and one tree could yield up to 20 kilos, which collectively comes to almost one ton of nuts per hectare of a Korean pine.  Korean pine forms mixed stands with a great multitude of other tree species to form stands that are recognized as the most species-rich forests in Amur River Basin.
Korean pine-broadleaf forests are high priority for biodiversity conservation in the Russian Far East (RFE) and Northeast China.  They are the last existing habitat for the rare Amur tiger and the Far Eastern leopard and only in this forest type can one find the legendary ginseng, the root of life.  The ecosystem depends entirely on the Korean Pine: where there is Korean pine, there one finds wild boar, which is the tiger's primary prey.  Ginseng grows only under the canopy of Korean pine stands.  The value of a living tree is ten times higher than its timber.  And Korean pine-broadleaved forests are very often the only source of income for residents of remote villages.

Between 1946-1993 Korean pine stands area was reduced by 220%.  Only one third of the stands remain intact.  There is only 2.86 million ha of “untouched” forests, which is 1,1% of the total Far Eastern forests in Russia and much smaller share in northeast China. ( see map)

In Russia cutting Korean pine was banned in 1990, only this has not prevented the export of 170 000 cubic meters of Korean pine lumber in 2005.  In fact, at least 600 000 cubic meters were cut which comes to almost 130 000 trees!  Specialists say that if this rate of harvest continues for another 15 years, Korean pine stands will disappear in the Russian Far East.  Many stands in China are protected from logging, but in other areas logging of Korean pine larger than 40 cm in diameter is allowed.  The destruction of forests has slowed, but according to local experts the current level of logging is not sustainable.
In 2006-2007 a wave of “pine riots” occurred in Primorsky Province in Russia.  People demanded that regulatory agencies halt the large scale commercial cutting of Korean pine and other valuable tree species carried out by state forest management bureaus as intermediate cutting.  This is one of the most urgent ecological issues in the RFE.  The impudence and impunity of forest poachers and the lack of state control have forced villagers to ask WWF and journalists for help.

The WWF-Amur branch in Russia designated 2007 the Year for Korean Pine and proposed a package of measures for Korean pine forest conservation based on the following claims:
1.Include Korean pine into the list of tree species banned from harvest;
2.Forbid logging of Korean pine under any circumstances and organize effective enforcement of the ban;
3.Provide transfer of Korean pine forests to long-term use for the collection of non-timber forest products to meet the needs and priorities of local people.
On April 20, 2007 intermediate forest cutting was suspended in Primorskii Province.  The Forestry Department of Primorskii Province has informed the public that in cooperation with regional legislature it is in the process of preparing proposals for the Russian Government to include Korean pine on a list of species banned from harvest.

Pine nut collection - important source of income for locals (Photo by V.Fedorchenko-WWF)

Map collections:

Species richness

Distribution of charismatic species

Wildlife trade destinations



Floristic zones

Terrestrial ecoregions


Major protected areas of Amur-Heilong

Small Hinggan transboundary area



Korean pine

Plant life in Amur basin

Logging and timber trade

Non-timber forest products

Also look:

Species richness in Amur-Heilong River Basin

Korean pine

Asian ginseng


The harvest of biological resources in China

Trade in flora and fauna in Russian Far East


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