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March 01, 2006 ㅡ DAMYANG, South Jeolla province ― Bamboo forests in Damyang County, South Jeolla province, are withering away, it was reported yesterday.
Damyang is known as Korea's "home of bamboo" but these days, shriveled yellow leaves fill its once green groves. Research conducted by the county found that 90 percent of the total 14.87 square kilometers (4,447 acres) of land in Damyang County used to cultivate bamboo includes such withered specimens.
One grove in particular, 98,329 square meters near the Yeongsan riverbank, was being considered last month for listing as a natural monument, but it too is dying. Damyang County resident Kim Jong-tae said, "The trees at the outer boundary of the forest started to dry up towards the end of last month, but now it has spread to the rest of this area."
Experts said that snow and cold weather this winter caused the problem, as snow melted on the plants, then froze during the night.
Jung Jae-hun, a researcher at the Damyang Bamboo Research Center, said, "The temperature changes between day and night were more drastic this winter. As a result, the bamboo kept repeating the process of freezing and thawing, which damaged them."
The damage is so extensive that experts and local government officials do not know how to begin the recovery process. A Damyang County official said, "It is the first time that whole forests have dried up. We plan to assess the situation clearly in April and May, when new leaves start growing."
Dr. Ahn Yeong-hwan of North Jeolla's Forest Environment Research Institute said, "Young bamboo plants that are one or two years old are in bad condition because they were unable to photosynthesize properly. It will take at least three years for the forests to return to their healthy, green state."
by Seo Hyung-sik <firstname.lastname@example.org>
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