Deforestation in North Korea is becoming the epitome of the environmental change occurring in the Korean Peninsula. This study estimates the agro-environmental variables of North Korea’s croplands and analyzes the impact of deforestation using the GEPIC (GIS-based EPIC (Environmental Policy Integrated Climate)) model and time-series land cover maps. To identify the changes in agricultural quality under deforestation, wind erosion, water erosion, organic carbon loss, and runoff were selected as the agro-environmental variables having an impact on cropland stability and productivity. Land cover maps spanning the past three decades showed that 75% of the forests were converted to croplands and that 69% of all converted croplands were originally forests, confirming the significant correlation between deforestation and cropland expansion in North Korea. Despite limitations in the verification data, we conducted qualitative and quantitative validation of the estimated variables and confirmed that our results were reasonable. Over the past 30 years, agro-environmental variables showed no clear time-series changes resulting from climate change, but changes due to spatial differences were seen. Negative changes in organic carbon loss, water erosion, and runoff were observed, regardless of the crop type. On newly-converted agricultural lands, runoff is 1.5 times higher and water-driven erosion and soil organic loss are more than twice as high compared to older croplands. The results showed that the agro-environment affected by deforestation had an impact on cropland stability and productivity.
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