Deforestation: Facts, Causes & Effects

Deforestation lungs forestDeforestation is the act of destroying forests in order to create space on the land available for other uses. About 18 million acres ( 7.3 million hectares ) of trees are cut down each year, stated the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization ( or FAO for short ).

Here are some more statistics on the matter:

  • Almost half of all the Earth’s tropical forests have been destroyed. (FAO)
  • 30 % of all the world’s land mass are covered by forests. (National Geographic)
  • Forest clearing contributes around 6 to 12 % of the annual global CO2 emissions.  (Nature Geoscience)
  • From 35 to 36 football stadiums worth of trees are lost every minute. (World Wildlife Fund (WWF))

Location


Deforestation is a global problem, although tropical rainforests are especially targeted and endangered. NASA stated, that if the current deforestation rate is maintained, the world’s rainforests may be completely destroyed in just 100 years. Countries with serious deforestation include Indonesia, Brazil, Thailand, the Democratic Republic of Congo, other parts of the African continent, and some parts of Eastern Europe, reported by the United Nations Environmental Program collaborating center ( GRID-Arendal ).On the top of the list is Indonesia. From the last century until now, the country has lost at least 15.79 million hectares of forest, according to a research by US University of Maryland and the World Resource Institute.

Deforestation was practiced throughout history, but in the past 50 years the rate has increased exponentially. For instance, almost 90 percent of United States’ native woodland was cleared since 1600.


Causes


Deforestation can be caused by a lot of things. The WWF states that 50 percent of the trees that are used as fuel are illegally cut down.

Another reason for deforestation is:

  • To add more land for urbanization and production of houses.
  • So that timber can be gathered to produce items such as paper,furniture and other such necessities.
  • To make room for animal husbandry

Ordinary procedures include burning trees and clear cutting. Methods like this leave behind terrain that is absolutely empty and are questionable practices.

 


Deforestation and climate change


Global effects of deforestationCutting down trees is labeled as one of the many factors responsible for the global climate change.

The number one problem produced by deforestation is the influence on the global carbon levels. Greenhouse gases are gas molecules that capture thermal infrared radiation. If they are in large amounts, the effect will be catastrophic. Oxygen does not soak up that radiation, but Carbon dioxide does.

CO2 is the most common greenhouse gas that is contributing to climate change.

So, what shall we do to limit the carbon dioxide in our atmosphere?

Planting more trees can help.

Around 300 billion tons of the stuff is stored in trees, according to Greenpeace.
Deforestation not only reduces the quantity of carbon stored, but also releases a lot of it into the air.

When trees die they release the stored CO2 and according to the 2010 Global Forest Resources Assessment, forest clearing releases almost a billion tons of the greenhouse gas per year. Destroying mass quantities of forests is the second biggest human-caused origin of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere. ( Accounting from between 6 and 17 % )

This is where it gets even more interesting…

This is not the only gas that is released in the process.

Water vapor is also an issue. “The exchange of water vapor and CO2 between the terrain and the atmosphere is a large concern. Changes in the concentration can affect climate and the natural weather and its patterns.” Stated Michael Daley from Lasell College.


Other effects of deforestation


Forests are really complex ecosystems that provide a home for a lot of species. If they are degraded, this could start a destructive chain of events locally and around the planet.

Loss of species:

Around seventy percent of the planet’s animals and plants inhabit the forest and need it to sustain their life. Deforestation can lead to extinction of certain species. It also has non-beneficial consequences for the medical research.

Water cycle:

Trees are one of the key factors in the water cycle. They capture rain water and produce water vapor, which is released back into the air. The woods also act like a natural filter, clearing pollution in the H2O.

Soil erosion:

Trees also hold the soil together with their roots. Without them, the soil is going to be affected by wind and rain, which can make vegetation growth difficult. ( Rain water, for example, can wash away the nutrients and other organic materials, which affect the soil fertility. )

After clear cutting, a lot of cash crops are planted, like coffee, soy and palm oil. These trees don’t have root systems that can hold the soil together, causing even more erosion.

Life quality:

Soil erosion can make ideal conditions for slit to enter the lakes, streams and other water sources. This can lead to a decrease of quality and can be responsible for poor health in populations in the vicinity.


Reforestation would help:


  • To restore the ecosystems and habitats that are destroyed in the process of forest clearing.
  • Reduce the carbon dioxide burden in the planetary atmosphere.

Although, reforestation won’t fix the total damage, it will help in the process. For instance, Daley explains that the woods can’t absorb all the CO2 that humans are pumping in the air through fossil fuels. Growing back forests won’t reverse the extinction due to deforestation, either. That is because we already destroyed populations of many species to such a point that even with a massive reforestation effort, they may not recover.

Tactics, like changing the human population diet to a plant-based one, are being used to combat the need of land for livestock.  Thus, lowering the deforestation to a slower pace.

The Global Forest Watch started a project to raise awareness of the problem. They use satellite technology, crowdsourcing and open data to track and signal others of deforestation.


Story Source

The post above was made from the following materials:
http://www.fao.org/…
http://environment.nationalgeographic.com/…
http://sites.biology.duke.edu/…
http://www.worldwildlife.org/…
http://www.grida.no/
http://zeenews.india.com/…
http://www.greenpeace.org/…
http://landsat.gsfc.nasa.gov/…
http://www.globalforestwatch.org/…
Rob Jackson
Michael Daley

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