What is deforestation?
Deforestation is the permanent clearing or removal of trees by industrial or natural means. It is mainly occurring in the Amazon rainforest but is a problem in many areas across the globe.
Deforestation has many negative effects associated with it and can have serious long-term repercussions. The land where the forest is removed from is mainly used for farms, ranches, and used to create urban areas.
The most concentrated deforestation occurs in tropical rainforests. About 30 percent of Earth’s land surface is covered by forests.
Here is a list of the effects caused by deforestation.
IMPACTS OF DEFORESTATION
Increased Greenhouse Gases
Deforestation massively affects the global carbon cycle. Tropical deforestation is responsible for approximately 20% of world greenhouse gas emissions. Trees hold an estimated 300 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide. This is 40 times the amount of the annual greenhouse gases emitted from fossil fuels.
As trees deforestation occurs, it means there are fewer trees on earth to store this carbon dioxide, thus, contributing to global warming.
Forests are one of the world largest carbon sinks. The carbon stored in forest biomass, deadwood, litter, and soil together is more than all the carbon in the atmosphere.
It is estimated that up to 80% of carbon dioxide is stored in the dead matter in the Boreal forests in Canada. A study by the University of Leeds in the UK of tropical forests around the globe found that they absorb around 18% of carbon dioxide emitted by fossil fuels.
Deforestation not only decreases the amount of carbon dioxide being released into the air. It also releases carbon dioxide when they die. This is because trees store carbon. Deforestation releases nearly a billion tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, making it one of the main contributors to greenhouse gases.
Impacts on Water Cycle
Another effect deforestation has on the forests is the water cycle. The trees absorb massive amounts of water from the ground and put it back into the atmosphere. As trees are removed, they can no longer transpire this water. Effectively, causing a drier climate which can have further negative consequences. Landslides and flash flooding can be caused by dry soil.
According to a study by the North Carolina State University, trees also lesses the pollution in the water.
Loss of Species
Around 70% of the worlds animal and plant life live in forests across the planet. The loss of habitat can lead to extinction in some cases. Deforestation has caused a massive loss of the biodiversity of the ecosystem located in these forests.
According to recent studies, we are losing an estimated 137 species of animal, plant, and insects every day in the rainforest because of deforestation. This is around 50,000 lost species every year.
The US National Cancer Institute published that there are over 3000 plants that are active against cancer cells. Over 70% of these plants are located in the rainforest. This poses a threat to these plants and could potentially threaten cancer treatment if deforestation continues at such a rapid rate.
There are potentially thousands of plants in the rainforest that are undiscovered. These could have huge medicinal advantages for a variety of diseases. Many experts in the field believe that if there is a cure for diseases like cancer or aids, it will be found in the rainforest.
Similarly, the biodiversity of the rainforest is so immense that less than 1% of the millions of species have been studied by scientists. Who knows the possibilities the species of these plants could hold. We may never find out if deforestation continues.
Animals affected by deforestation
Orangutan – Palm oil production is one of the contributors to deforestation. One of the most used oils on the planet, its trees are being cut down and affecting wildlife who thrive here. Indonesia and Malaysia are the only countries in the world to home orangutans. These countries produce 85% of the worlds palm oil and deforestation is putting this species at risk.
Mountain gorilla – This species of the gorilla is marked as critically endangered by the IUCN. It is estimated that there are less than 1000 mountain gorillas on earth and the likes of deforestation and poaching put these animals further at risk.
Malayan sun bear – As forests are cleared, animals are forced to look for a new habitat. Often bringing them into unfamiliar territory and in to contact with humans. Sun bears will try to look for insects on plantation lands and if caught, get killed. Because of rapid deforestation, it has been estimated that up to 75% of this species has been killed off.
Giant pandas – Unfortunately, the main cause of the giant pandas’ decline in population is because of deforestation. While its numbers are slowly increasing thanks to the efforts of conservation centers, the giant panda remains one of the most critically endangered species on the planet.
Damage to forests and other aspects of nature could halve living standards in poor parts of the world. According to a report at the convention on biological diversity, the damage to forests could reduce the global GDP by around 7% by 2050.
Historically, we as a society have used wood for many different things in our day to day life and still do today. However, many poor parts of the world still use timber as their main source of heating and cooking.
Tourism is one of the main sources of income in countries who’s land lie on rainforests. Rainforests are a massive attraction for tourists. It is becoming less of an attraction due to the negative effects associated with deforestation, which is negatively affecting the economy of these countries.
Deforestation can destroy a large quantity of a variety of species of plants and animals, which can lead to an increase in disease. Typically, the destruction of predatory species can cause an increase in the population of rodents, which carry plague.
Furthermore, erosion can cause pools of water to become stagnant which becomes the perfect breeding ground for mosquitos, known for carrying disease such as malaria.
Deforestation in Kenya has caused a massive increase in morbidity and mortality due to the increase in malaria. Similarly, the same result occurred in Nigeria.
Silt can enter lakes, rivers and other sources of water due to soil erosion. In doing so, it can cause a decrease in water quality and can contribute to poor health quality in the local communities.
CAUSES OF DEFORESTATION
Expansion of farmland
One of the major causes of deforestation is to convert areas of forestland to farmland. The increase in demand for food and commodities such as palm oil and soybeans are causing the clearance of forests at an alarming rate.
Furthermore, the population of our planet is always increasing, and we already have hunger problems as it is. This creates a massive problem and one solution is to produce more food.
Logging tropical hardwoods like teak, mahogany, and rosewood is a massive business and can hold big profits. Many species of wood like mahogany are imported by first world countries such as the United States.
Hardwood isn’t the only material that comes out of logging. Cardboard is also a massive contributor, too. Massive machines can mince up massive trees in a matter of minutes. Shredding them into tiny pieces, which are then used to make cardboard boxes.
Not only that, illegal logging is also a problem too. It is estimated that the illegal logging of forests by criminals gets between $10 to $15 billion dollars a year. Many of these people are working for less than $1 a day.
Cattle ranching is the largest contributor to deforestation in every Amazon country. In total, it accounts for around 80% of all deforestation. A strong demand for red meat from cows is expanding this kind of deforestation.
Most noteworthy, approximately 450,000 square kilometers of deforested Amazon in Brazil is solely used for cattle pasture.
Many causes of deforestation are from human activity. However, forest fires are more often than not caused naturally and account for a large amount of the removal of forestland.
As a result, Each year, fire burns millions of hectares of forests across the globe. These fires are becoming more and more common as Earths temperatures increase and extreme weather is more frequent.
There are burning seasons in many farmlands which can often pass to neighboring forest. Ones it reaches the forest it can be near impossible to stop as it spreads extremely quick.
SOLUTIONS FOR DEFORESTATION
In many parts of the world, afforestation is increasing the forested lands, especially in parts of East-Asia. Out of the 50 main forested nations, 22 have increased the amount of forest located there.
In El Salvador, the tropical forest increased by over 20% between 1992 and 2001. If these trends were to continue in years to come, it is projected that the global forest will increase to around the size of India by 2050. This would be a massive achievement considering the massive demand for woodland.
China’s forestland reached historically low levels in the 20th century due to over-harvesting. There are now projects in place such as the Green Wall of China which its main goal is to replant the forest that was harvested and to prevent the expansion of the Gobi desert.
Going green means using only re-usable and recyclable products where you can. This can help reduce the high demand for wood and thus, decreasing deforestation.
Similarly, by focusing on recycling paper, cardboard, plastics, and wood products, we will be less dependent on the clearance of trees. Furthermore, it will also put less strain on the government to import raw materials such as woods and can indirectly help the economy out.
Laws and regulations
Due to the massive decrease in forestland across the globe, laws and regulations have been put in to place. In doing so, it restricts companies who pursue in clearing forestland to do so in an excessive manner.
It makes deforestation more strict by limiting the amount of land they can take and putting massive penalties in place if they were to break these laws,
Furthermore, there needs to be stricter rules put down to prevent illegal logging as it is still a massive problem today.
Create protected areas
Another simple solution to reducing deforestation is to create protected areas in parts of forestland.
Certainly, this is done in many places around the world, but it should be done more frequently to prevent illegal logging and over-harvesting.
It is a similar approach to the conservation and protection of animals who are endangered by poachers.
As a result, it could also help in conserving and discovering new species of animals, plants, and insects which could have a range of positives come with it.