Deforestation occurs when forest is cleared. Such clearing of forest is commonly associated with the permanent conversion of forestland to other uses, such as croplands, pasture or development.
Why should I be aware of this?
To understand why deforestation is such a pressing and urgent issue, forests must first be given credit for what they bring to global ecosystems and the quality of life that all species maintain. Tropical forests are home to 50 to 80 per cent of all organisms. Deforestation not only endangers plant and animal life, it also endangers man.
From something as minor as the spices that flavour our food to life giving medicines, the rainforests amplify and save lives. In India, local people of Kumaon acknowledged their intimate connection with trees with the Chipko Movement -- a protest against widespread and rampant deforestation, where villagers hugged trees to save them from the woodcutter's axe.
How does this affect me?
- It is estimate that deforestation has an adverse impact on our biodiversity. It is responsible for the loss of 137 plant types, animal of various sorts, and insect species -- around 50,000 species are lost every year.
- As the forest essentials fade away, so do many probable cures for grave and serious diseases.
- At present, 121 recommended drugs retailed worldwide are derived from plant sources.
- 25% of present pharmaceuticals have originated from the forest's ingredients. *Almost 1% of the woodland has been tested for more medicinal cure by scientists; and the rest of the promising flora offer more possibilities of cure..
- Through tropical rainforest deforestation, however, practically 50% of the world's species of flora, fauna and organisms will be ruined or relentlessly jeopardized over the next years to come.
- 50,000 square kilometres of closed tropical forest are logged annually. Loggers take only between 4 and 10 percent of trees, but leave up to one third of the land surface bare and open to erosion.
All about deforestation
Deforestation is destruction of forest land which is a major problem the world over. Major causes of deforestation are:
Not all deforestation is intentional. Some is caused by a combination of human and natural factors like wildfires and subsequent overgrazing, which may prevent the growth of young trees.
Effect of deforestation
- Colombia, once second in the world with freshwater reserves, has fallen to 24th due to its extensive deforestation over the past 30 years. *Excessive deforestation around the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur, combined with the dry conditions created by el Niño, triggered strict water rationing in 1998, and for the first time the city had to import water.
- Madagascar is largely a red, treeless desert from generations of forest clearing with fire.
- The declining rainfall in interior West African countries has in part been attributed to excessive clearing of the coastal rainforests.
- New research in Australia suggests that if it were not for human influences—specifically widespread agricultural fires—the dry outback might be a wetter, more hospitable place than it is today.
- According to a Global Forest Watch 2002 report, Indonesia is experiencing one of the most dramatic losses of forestland in the world. Reports showed that at the current rate of loss, Borneo's forests could vanish completely by 2010.
Deforestation and environment
Deforestation has many negative effects on the environment.
- Loss of habitat for millions of species -- Seventy percent of Earth’s land animals and plants live in forests, and many cannot survive the deforestation that destroys their homes.
- Deforestation drives climate change-- Deforestation results in increased aridity and desertification.
- Forests are world's carbon sinks -- Trees also play a critical role in absorbing the greenhouse gases that fuel global warming. Fewer forests means larger amounts of greenhouse gases entering the atmosphere—and increased speed and severity of global warming.
- Adverse condiiton for plants and animals -- Removing trees deprives the forest of portions of its canopy, which blocks the sun’s rays during the day and holds in heat at night. This disruption leads to more extreme temperatures swings that can be harmful to plants and animals.
- Plant biomass is reduced-- Deforestation causes much damage to the structure of the natural forest as has been the case in Malaysia and the Philippines.
- Biodiversity is greatly reduced -- The destruction of tropical rainforest will reduce the biological diversity (both plants and animals) by reducing its genetic base. Valuable species of economic/ medicinal value are lost.
- Ecosystem stability is reduced -- Savanna are penetrated into forest. Tropical hardwood emergents are tall trees and take a long time to mature. This makes forest regeneration difficult and slow, and forest depletion leads to inferior secondary growth and invasion by weeds.
- Soil erosion -- Deforestation results in the loss of protective soil cover and the water-holding capacity of the soil.
- Local water supply -- With forest loss, the local community loses the regular flow of clean water and protecting the community from flood and drought.
- Destructive flood and drought cycles --The forest acts as a sort of sponge, soaking up rainfall brought by tropical storms while anchoring soils and releasing water at regular intervals. This regulating feature of tropical rainforests can help moderate destructive flood and drought cycles that can occur when forests are cleared.
- Local humidity and rainfall --Forest adds to local humidity through transpiration (the process by which plants release water through their leaves), and thus adds to local rainfall.
- Outbreak of diseases -- The emergence of tropical diseases and outbreaks of new diseases, including nasty hemorrhagic fevers like ebola and lassa fever. With increased human presence in the rainforest, and exploiters pushing into deeper areas, man is encountering "new" microorganisms with behaviors unlike those previously known.
What can I do?
The quickest solution to deforestation would be to simply stop cutting down trees and plat more trees.
- Over the past 150 years, deforestation has contributed an estimated 30 percent of the atmospheric build-up of carbon dioxide. It is also a significant driving force behind the loss of genes, species, and critical ecosystem services.
- Deforestation is clearing Earth's forests on a massive scale, often resulting in damage to the quality of the land. Forests still cover about 30 percent of the world’s land area, but swaths the size of Panama are lost each and every year.
- The world’s rain forests could completely vanish in a hundred years at the current rate of deforestation.
- Between 2000 and 2005, global forested area shrunk by more than 36 million hectares (just under 1 percent of the total forested area).
- TROPICAL RAINFORESTS: Disappearing Opportunities
- LOSS OF SPECIES FOR FOREST REGENERATION
- Rain Forest -- Impact of Deforestation on Global Climates