Example #1 – Deforestation In The Amazon Rainforest
RIO CONFERENCE ON DEFORESTATION IN THE AMAZON RAINFOREST
Dear Mr. Meacher,
I have prepared the following report for you to read before you attend the Rio Conference on Deforestation in the Amazon rainforest. I feel that the key issues for you to consider are global extent of deforestation and the condition of the Amazon rainforest e.g. effects of deforestation.
I cannot express how urgent my recommendations are and insist you consider them.
I am aware that you may not be familiar with the subject of the Amazon rainforest so I have taken the liberty of providing detailed information under key-headings.
What is Deforestation?
Deforestation is the clearance of forestland. It is a key global environmental issue (see figure 1 and 1.5). One hectare of the rainforest in LEDC countries is cleared every two seconds. The cleared area has increased to the size of Great Britain. The fastest clearances in the world take place in the Amazon rainforest, South America, Brazil. (See figure 2)
Deforestation of the forest for timber, fuel, charcoal burning, and clearing of agriculture and extractive industries such as mining, without planting new trees to replace those lost (reforestation) or working on a cycle that allows the natural forest to regenerate. Deforestation causes fertile soil to be blown away or washed into rivers, leading to soil erosion, drought, flooding, and loss of wildlife. It may also increase the carbon dioxide content of the atmosphere and intensifies the greenhouse effect because there are fewer trees absorbing carbon dioxide from the air for photosynthesis.
The greenhouse effect is the gradual warming of the Earth’s atmosphere because carbon dioxide and other gases prevent heat from escaping to space, which makes the Earth’s surface warmer than it otherwise, would be. (See figure 9 for the greenhouse effect)
Deforestation leads to famine and is thought to be partially responsible for flooding in lowland areas because the trees help to slow down water movement. In the tropics deforestation in the tropics is especially serious because such forests do not regenerate easily and because they are such a rich source of bio-diversity.
The rainforest most affected by deforestation is the Amazon in Brazil. In the last 40 years over 25% of the Amazon rainforest has been cleared.
What is the Amazon rainforest like?
The Amazon rainforest is about 5? North of the equator. The climate is very hot and wet throughout the year and temperatures are usually above 20?c and can often reach as high as 30?c (see figure 3) it rains almost every afternoon and the air becomes very humid, making it feel hotter. Yearly rainfalls are a high 1 500 – 3 000mm compared to London, which has a maximum of around 500mm.
The Amazon in Brazil, South America (see figure 4) is one of the wettest regions on the Earth. Over 15 000 tributaries feed into the Amazon River. One-fifth of the Earth’s river water flows through the mouth of the Amazon, which is as wide as the distance from London to Paris. There are more species of plants and animals in the Amazon than anywhere else in the Earth and over 50% of the plants and animals are found in the rainforest and provide about one-quarter of the world’s prescription drugs.
For example, the rosy periwinkle provides drugs, which help cure leukemia. 10% of plants have been fully studied and new animals are being discovered every year. The biggest feature of the Amazon rainforest is that one-third of the world’s trees grow here. The rainforest ecosystem had adapted to its environment, which consists of high temperatures, heavy rainfall, and an all-year-round growing season. The rainforest has a clear structure (see figure 5).
In order for trees to live, they must take nutrients from the soil. In the Amazon rainforest dead leaves fallen from the trees decompose at a great speed because of the hot and wet climate. This process allows nutrients to be continuously returned to the soil. This process is called the nutrient or hummus cycle. (See figure 6) After deforestation has occurred the cycle changes. The biomass store would be immediately reduced if people removed trees from the area for timber and the disruption caused animals to move away.
The flow of nutrients to the litter and soil might increase initially as remaining dead vegetation rotted down. However, in the longer term, the stores of nutrients in the litter and soil would decrease as rapid leaching and soil erosion occurred on the exposed ground. As new secondary vegetation grew up the biomass store would rise again although not as much as before.
How is the Amazon rainforest seen as a resource?
The rainforest is in great danger from a rapidly growing population (see figure 4), and because of this the demand on the forests natural resources is enormous. The rainforest ecosystem has many uses including the following:
? Shifting cultivation by Amerindians: primitive tribes in the forested highlands of the Amazon Basin practice Shifting Cultivation. While cultivated using shifting cultivation, the tropical/equatorial rainforest nutrient is mainly locked up in the biomass with little nutrient in the soil. Also, the cycling of nutrients is rapid.
- Corporations have set up ranching facilities where once forests grew.
- Mining to extract raw materials such as copper and iron ore.
- Logging to export high-quality hardwood timber to make furniture etc…
- Plantation to grow cash crops for export
- Government policy to provide land for dispossessed Brazilians
The different groups of people in the forest have different conflicts. Some of these conflicts are for deforestation and some are against.
Those who are for deforestation are people and companies that will profit from the destruction. The destruction of the rainforest by such activities as ranching and mining is also a necessity to the Brazilian economy. A ranch owner Jose Rodriguez told us the farming method used. “We clear an area of forest and farm it for five years, then we leave it to rest and recover its fertility”. This means that the amount of farming land grows but the Amazon rainforest is being destroyed. Although vast amounts of forest are being destroyed every year ranching also provides jobs for many people and they supply meat to MEDC countries, which helps their economy.
A chief executive for the Trombetas bauxite mine told us “ we try to protect the environment as much as possible, however, it is inevitable that some forest will be destroyed in the large-scale extraction of raw materials”. Mining provides billions of dollars, which is used to pay the national debt to MEDC countries and provides thousands of jobs. Logging has the same reasons for existing but we cannot overlook the fact threat the forest is being destroyed and it is affecting the whole world.
A group that is trying to stop this devastating destruction is Greenpeace. Their view on deforestation is that there is no argument it is a key global issue, the amazon forest affects belongs to all of us and its destruction will affect everyone. If we want to maintain the planet then we must follow in the footsteps of Greenpeace and preserve this natural resource.
Multinational companies, the Brazilian government, and millions of local farmers are destroying the rainforest; it will affect all of us, the world’s climate, and destroy the richest store of plants and animals on the earth. We cannot allow this to happen it must stop.
The main reason this cannot happen is that the amazon rainforest is hoped to many indigenous people. The people of the amazon have the key to its protection. Recent satellite data indicated that the indigenous territories demarcated in Brazil during the last five years are the only areas to have rolled back deforestation. Many indigenous people believe that they were put here to protect mother earth. They need their environment intact to continue the reproduction of their culture.
They need to use forest resources but also to preserve it for future generations. The only problem is to survive they need to work to support their families. As the only workaround is in mines and on ranches they are forced to destroy their own environment.
Also, some people who can no longer survive in the rainforest are forced to leave their home and their culture and move to the cities where jobs are available. The culture and way of living is dying at a rapid rate and if deforestation is not stopped then what these people have will be no more.
- The trees in the Amazon rainforest supply one half of the world’s oxygen. If we cut down the trees, we are also cutting down our oxygen. This means that there will be more carbon dioxide produced. The carbon cycle can be found at (figure 8)
- The indigenous people will lose their culture and home for future generations. Their way of life will disappear along with the rainforest.
- The hundreds of different species of wildlife that exist within the rainforest will be destroyed. This means extinction for many and new species will no longer be discovered.
- The plants and trees in the Amazon rainforest provide one-half of the world’s medicines, if the plants are destroyed the potential chance of a cure for major diseases such as aids and cancer is lost.
- If deforestation continues the Amazon basin will eventually become a desert as fewer trees mean that the amount of water vapor entering the atmosphere will reduce.
- 80% of rainfall is stopped from going into the under layers of the rain forest by the overlaying canopy. If the trees are removed then the more rain will reach the forest floor and wash away the soil. Soil fertility will decrease and erosion will increase. This will increase flooding and make farming difficult.
- Some species of hardwood trees will become endangered.
- Global warming will become worse as a result of deforestation in the Amazon. This is the burning of trees, which increases the amount of carbon into the atmosphere
- The large-scale mining in the Amazon basin is destroying and polluting the natural environment.
Solutions to deforestation
Some solutions to deforestation can be seen at.
Continuing on from the diagram I would like to highlight the ways in which companies can help to stop deforestation as well as exploit it. Companies have been known to be willing to fight to reduce deforestation.
These two companies are Habitat, which has banned the sale of rainforest products and the national trade and timber company are considering whether or not to put tax on imports of tropical hardwood products. This means that a lot less wood would be exported from the tropical rainforest in Brazil.
Fast-food chains in America have told their suppliers not to buy meat from Central America last year because of an environmental outcry. This means that the demand for meat would have decreased.
These companies are a good starting point to continue from. If more companies would do this there would be a smaller demand for tropical products. The only reason deforestation is happening is that MEDC countries have a high demand for the Amazon’s natural resources. The rainforest ecosystem is a biosphere reserve (see figure 10), which is an ecosystem that is being protected from exploitation from government strategies. These government strategies are not many at present but with extra support from MEDC countries, they may improve.
The government in Brazil has made an attempt to stop the burning of the rainforest in the amazon by using helicopters to check on the rainforest. Due to a lack of money, only six helicopters are available to cover an area the size of Western Europe. The government set up IMBAMA, which was an organization that tracked down fires with the help of police (unlawful fires) and warn and fine landowners.
The government is partly to blame for the vast destruction of the tropical rainforest in Brazil. This is because for the last 20 years the government actively encouraged people to burn the land and paid them subsidies to do so. An international outcry was the result and finally, the government published the ‘our nature’ program, this stopped all new subsidies. So, using the biosphere reserves is possible means of rainforest protection that the government set up.
So minister now you have seen all the facts of deforestation, the effects it has on the whole world and what we suggest can be done to end this global issue. I put it to you that yes! There is a need to control deforestation in the Amazon rainforest and it should be dealt with as soon as possible.
The main issues involved in deforestation are:
- The world’s climate is being changed
- Amazon’s native people are being forced from their homes and are loosing their culture and way of life.
- Many species are being destroyed
- Medicines from plants and trees in the Amazon rainforest are in danger of disappearing
- The burning of trees is sending carbon into the air and causing greenhouse gases, which in time will damage the Earth and peoples health.
Although deforestation helps with the national debt and supplies jobs, is that really worth destroying the Earth?
Minister the view we recommend that you take at the conference is that deforestation should be stopped and that it is wrong. I feel that the evidence is sufficient to back up your argument, as there are many more arguments against as well as for deforestation. Deforestation is the destruction of the Earth and if the solutions we have suggested are not used quickly then Earth will become an unfriendly, unnatural place to be.
I thank you kindly for viewing my briefing and hope that the conference has positive results.
Ninety percent of our trees, 300 – 900 years old, has been cut down. The remaining 10% is all we will ever have. Deforestation is a significant issue of our time and must be taken seriously if we want to protect our remaining forests. The definition of deforestation by the Random House Dictionary of the English Language is “to divest or clear of forests or trees” and we must stop deforestation to save our planet. My intent on writing this essay is to enlighten the reader about the facts on deforestation and to express my opinions about deforestation.
There are approximately 3 400 million hectares of forests in the world, nearly 25% of the world’s land area. Close to 58% of the forests are found in the temperate/boreal regions and 42% in the tropics. For about a millennium, people have benefited from the forests. Forest products range from simple fuelwood and building poles to sophisticated natural medicines, and from high- tech wood-based manufactures to paper products.
Environmental benefits include water flow control, soil conservation, and atmospheric influences. Brazil’s Amazonia contains half of the world’s tropical rain forests. The forests cover a region 10 times the size of Texas. Only about 10% of Brazil’s rain forests have been cut to date, but cutting goes on at an uncontrollable rate.
Since pre-agricultural times the world’s forests have declined one fifth from 4 to 3 billion hectares. Temperate forests have lost 35% of their area, subtropical woody savannas and deciduous forests have lost 25% and ever-green forests which are now under the most pressure have lost the least area, 6% because they were inaccessible and sparsely populated.
Now with new technology, such as satellites systems, low altitude photography, and side-looking radar, scientists can now figure that the world is losing about 20.4 million hectares of tropical forests annually and if these figures are not reduced, we will lose all of our tropical forests in about 50 years. It has been suggested that the high deforestation rates are caused partly by the fact that the new surveys are more accurate and thus reveal old deforestation rates that have not been detected with older methods.
At first, there was a concern only among foresters about deforestation but now the public has created organizations such as Green Peace to help increase awareness and reduce deforestation. The Food and Agriculture Organization or F.A.O, has worked mainly within the forest community to find new and better ways to manage the forests.
Also, in 1985 there was the introduction of the Tropical Forestry Action Plan or T.F.A.P. This plan involved the F.A.O, United Nations development programs, the World Bank, other development agencies, several tropical country governments, and several government organizations. Together they developed a new strategy. More than 60 countries have decided to prepare national forestry action plans to manage their forests.
Tropical deforestation has various direct causes: The permanent conversion of forests to agricultural land, logging, demand for fuelwood, forest fires, and drought. Slash and burn clearing is the single greatest cause of tropical rain forest destruction worldwide. Air pollution is also a major threat to the forests in the northern hemisphere and is expected to increase.
Reduced growth, defoliation, and eventual death occur in most affected forests. From 1850 to 1980 the greatest forest losses occurred in North America and the Middle East (-60%), South Asia (-43%) and China (-39%). The highest rates of deforestation per year are now in South America (1.3%) and Asia (0.9%). Over the last two decades, the world became interested in the loss of tropical forests as a result of expanding agriculture, ranching and grazing, fuelwood collection, and timber exportation. The consequences are increased soil erosion, irregular streamflow, climate change, and loss of biodiversity.
Deforestation is second only to the burning of fossil fuels as a human source of atmospheric carbon dioxide. Almost all carbon releases from deforestation originate in the tropics. Global estimates of the amount of carbon given off annually by deforestation is 2.8 billion metric tons. Deforestation accounts for about 33% of the annual emissions of carbon dioxide by humans.
In 1987 11 countries were responsible for about 82% of this net carbon release: Brazil, Indonesia, Colombia, Cote d’Ivoire, Thailand, Laos, Nigeria, Vietnam, Philippines, Myanmar, and India. During 1987 when there was intense land clearing by fire in Brazil’s Amazon, more than 1.2 million metric tons of carbon are believed to have been released.
To save our remaining forests we have to learn three important principles: Reduce, reuse, recycle, i.e., lower the consumption of paper and paper products. Some examples are getting off junk mail lists, writing or photocopying on both sides of the paper, using cloth shopping bags, cloth instead of paper napkins and paper towels, cloth diapers, recycling waste papers, and buying recycled paper products. Another important fact to reduce deforestation is that we should communicate our views to our elected representatives and build a movement toward forest protection. Finally, we should visit forests and learn to appreciate them as places of inspiration and recreation.
The following two examples of case studies represent deforestation in the U.S. and in Canada. It used to be that Northern California’s Pacific Lumber Company was a timber operation that was an example of good forestry. The family-run firm harvested selectively from it’s 195 000 acres of Redwoods. Besides looking after the forest, Pacific Lumber looked after it’s employees, many lived in the company town of Scotia, the company paid their kid’s college tuition, the company’s controlled logging virtually guaranteed that the trees would last well into the next century.
All that changed in 1985 when Charles Hurwitz of the New York-based MAXXAM group bought the company and financed the take-over by issuing some $800 million in high-interest bonds. To pay the dept., Hurwitz doubled the rate of logging. Since the late 1980’s huge tracts of land have been clear-cut.
Economically the result has been a logging boom which will be followed by an inevitable bust when the tall timber is gone. Ecologically the logged land has been left bear.
The B.C. government nearly owns all the forest land and seems inclined to support timber interests than acting as guardians of the land, Everyday loggers cut down more than 1.5 square miles of growth forest. Few Native American tribes there have signed treaties with the Canadian government. After a struggle, the Haida nations in 1987 won the creation of a $350 000 acre park off South Moresby Island.
A fight continues over 22 000 acres Meares Island, claimed by the native Clayoquot tribes. In 1984, a blockade by the Clayoquot’s (off Vancouver) turned back a boatload of loggers. The vigil to defend the island lasted for six months, when a court ruling prohibited further logging until the Clayoquots’ claim to the land is settled.
In Conclusion, regulated deforestation can supply us with lumber without completely destroying the forests, but deforestation which is geared economically can permanently destroy our ecosystem. If deforestation is used wisely, the possibilities of positive effects take place.
Some of these are: Jobs would be created, the economy would be strengthened, expanding agriculture would provide much-needed resources to underdeveloped countries and people from poor urban areas could be resettled. Proper deforestation also increases foreign exchange (for example, our government promotes a new type of harvest and sells it to other countries).
Still, if deforestation is used badly it will destroy forests, add to global warming, and destroy cultures. Bad deforestation degrades the ground and the economic benefits from unwise deforestation barely enrich the community while the money goes into the pockets of politicians or timber companies. Furthermore, there is the loss of local products such as fishery, honey, game, berries, and also important species of plants that could help modern medicine.
I believe that if deforestation is not reduced soon, our ecosystem will be permanently damaged and we will have lost many of our resources.
The disappearance of trees, unquestioningly accepted as an indication of environmental degradation, evoked reactions ranging from disheartening feelings of powerlessness to various forms of cynicism (Kuchli, 1997 Page 8). Not only do forests support plants and animals; but they also have local and even global impacts on ecosystem sustainability.
It will be the object of this essay to analyze, based on a global scale, the patterns of deforestation. Also, a close examination will be made in a chosen area, in order to discover the various aspects of the impacts deforestation has made in this region.
Forests are spread around the world in different varieties and climates. Around 8000 years ago there were 6 billion hectares of forest globally. At present, only half remain due to the many different human-influenced factors. Forests provide habitat to animals, provide watershed resources, support plant life, and are fundamental regulators of the environment.
Since the dawn of mankind, forests have been used for dwellings and fuel. But as empire by empire passed by, the more demand for wood resources grew. Some forests today are gone completely because of past human activity; such as the Mediterranean, Middle-East, and Great Britain. Wars, ship-building, and various agricultural resources are some of the many human-influenced causes of deforestation.
Without the fertile forests, many issues will arise. These issues concern climate, vegetation, land, and biodiversity. Resiliency is a significant product of biodiversity. A world without this would be frail to the slightest touch; which would lead to the eventual collapse of ecosystems globally.
At the present time, biodiversity (affected by human impacts) almost equals that of the extinction of the past. Humans are vastly affected by deforestation, even though they are the main cause of this problem. Technology, politics, and economies also play a contributing role in deforestation.
By looking at the map, the highest amount of deforestation appears to be within most of the first world nations. As well, through the rainforest area, South America, South-East Asia, and several African nations all look like they have constant problems with deforestation. Russia and Mexico appear to be at quite low rates. In relation to these rates, the economies of mankind have a large role in deforestation. Commercial pastoralism, industrial logging, international trade, industrial production, and poverty and debt are all key economic factors in the destruction of forests.
Commercial pastoralism is the main cause of the destruction of tropical rain forests. Human-created pasturelands replace much of the delicate forest in Central America for the production of large-scale cattle rearing. This vast amount of beef output is due to the increasing demand for domestic expenditure (ex. Hamburgers); mostly from the North America region.
Industrial logging can be found almost everywhere in the world; from Canada to Russia. Through 1600 million cubic miles of forest (from industrial logging), 20% can be accounted for in low-income nations, whereas 84% can be met in high-income nations (annually).
Timber as international trade is a valuable export among poorer nations, rather than the more financially set countries. But, the more wealthy-type nations of the world tend to have the technology to process these goods (for import/export). Japan, being the largest importer, has a great influence and dependence on the logging from the Asia-Pacific region.
Industrial production is encountered within any low-income tropical nation; striving to increase the returns of the logging production. To successfully do this, industries are required to provide export or manufactured goods. There is no real definite increase in the returns, but there is a great addition to the stress on the forests.
Another cause of deforestation (through the present economic status) is poverty and debt. Low-income nations are mostly at fault concerning this factor. It is now generally recognized that the main cause of the destruction and degradation of tropical forests is the poverty of the people who live in and around the forests. (Collins, Sayer, & Whitmore, 1991). For domestic demands, food and fuel are extracted from the forests at an alarming rate.
The loss of forest means taking a large piece out of a running motor. It affects much more than what is exactly seen; both to natural and human environments. The forest feeds and nourishes all life on this planet in more ways than one.
Global warming is a great risk that deforestation contributes to. One quote states …release of this pool into the atmosphere through felling and burning could contribute substantially to global warming. (Anderson, 1990). In many countries, the process of the removal of trees is the slash and burn method. The present discharge of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere is rounded at around 1.6 gigatonnes. Also, this great release of carbon dioxide amounts to the increase of solar radiation.
This means a fluctuating humidity factor, less evaporation, less precipitation, increased runoff, greater amounts of windspeeds, and an increase in the temperature of the soil; so in other words, the Greenhouse effect can take place. The cumulative damaging effects of human forest occupation, forest clearing by fire, and extreme drought caused by interannual climate variability…interact to destroy tropical forests. (Goldammer, 1999).
Another concern caused by deforestation is soil erosion and various types of land degradation. One quote states: …clearing and burning forests for pasture establishment produce substantial increases in soil fertility….but these increases are ephemeral… (Anderson, 1990).
The clearing of forests reduces the amount of rain perforation with the soil and thus interferes with the proper amount and the nature of water movement in a given area suffering from deforestation (ex. Flooding and drought). As well, the soil chemistry of a distressed forest environment is vastly altered. This means that if an area of forest is disturbed, so too is the specific nutrient balance within that ecosystem.
Vegetation change is one more severe consequence of forest clearance. After deforestation takes place, regrowth in a rain forest, for example, takes around an astounding amount of 150 to 500 years. And, as well, regrowth does not mean that the original forest environment grows back. For example, in Britain, the once heavily forested areas now lie mostly bare, due to the overgrazing of livestock. Even with less intensified use of the land, these areas remain bare.
The effect on people and the various cultures around the world are another consequence of deforestation. Indigenous peoples living within forests, using the land for their survival are permanently affected; and thus being assimilated into modern culture. The very way of life, survival, and the overall culture of these people can be catastrophically altered. In fact, Brazil has lost a downhearted amount of 87 tribes between 1900 and 1950 (extinct).
South-east Asia is a site of the major attraction of economic interest, mostly because of its rich, fruitful rainforest. Economic growth and demand for land are increasing day by day in the Asia-Pacific region. (Collins, Sayer, & Whitmore, 1991).
Several threats facing this region are logging, shifting cultivation, pesticides, and plantations. Some wildlife that can be found in this vicinity of the world are tigers, orangutans, rhinoceroses, elephants, cobras, various bird species, crocodiles, and many more. Yet current patterns of development are depleting wildlife and its habitats at an alarming pace. (Collins, Sayer, & Whitmore, 1991).
Plant species are found in rich deposits in the Asia-Pacific region (ex. Rafflesia is the world’s largest flower; and can be found in this area of the world). Medicinal species of plants are another important factor in the positive impacts of these rainforests.
In fact, 75% of India and 80% of China depend upon the healing powers of some 6500 plant species in this area. Unfortunately, over-collection and the loss of habitat threaten all these plant species.
Shifting cultivation is a common practice used in this region, where slash and burn or swidden methods are used to release nutrients into the topsoil for short-term cultivation. The major problem of this is that the land nutrients will be used up and the land will be useless until recovery takes place.
Timber is a major product, but there are also plantation crops (rubber, oil, palm, tea, and coffee). The dipterocarp forests of South East Asia are today the largest source of hardwoods in international trade, but they are likely to be logged over within a decade or two. (Collins, Sayer, &Whitmore, 1991).
Sadly enough, the balance and security of rainforests in this section of the world are failed through the lack of government support. It is clear from the rapid destruction, however, that something is wrong with either present government policies or with their implementation. (Collins, Sayer, & Whitmore, 1991).
The largest and most important solution to deforestation is to stop. Already 55% of the world s rainforest has been decimated. Currently, 40 hectares of the rainforest a minute are destroyed. Wood product trade statistics are presently affected by new consumer awareness and concern. Treaties cause a big response toward the recognition of deforestation and the serious aftermath (ex. 1992 Tropical Timber Labeling Act). Recycling is another recent attempt to cut down on the amount of waste and demand for new timber.
Also, an additional problem is that of external tension on external organizations. For example, environmentalists that are from large distances from the actual logging sites, actually know little of what is actually going on. They should understand, for example, that if international lending agencies simply pull out, massive invasions of Indian and forest reserves could occur. (Anderson, 1990).
The withdrawal of interests in the various logging areas, believed by most environmentalists, in fact, does not help solve the problem; in fact, it worsens the problem. As stressed before, the education of the seriousness of the problem of deforestation is a helpful technique. But, interestingly enough, it is the people at the site of deforestation who need the teaching, rather than outside regions.
The preservation of the forests of the world should be the main goal for every government, using whatever means necessary. Prevention, however, is preferable to a cure….. (Collins, Sayer, & Whitmore, 1991).
Have you ever thought about how important forests are in life? The trees in your surrounding seem unimportant as you go about daily life, acknowledging them only as of the scenery and background in your life. But if you think about it, trees are everywhere in life. Your furniture, paper you write on, the fruit you eat, even the air you breathe comes from trees. We, as consumers rely heavily on trees and forests as resources, but forests are shrinking instead of growing, all because of deforestation. Deforestation is an important issue. It is a problem that stems from our misuse of resources.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN, from 2000 to 2010, an estimated amount of 13 million hectares of forest were lost per year because of deforestation. And what do we do all this for? Benefits to companies, industrialization, an expansion for factories.
People see deforestation as a beneficial action, as they are gaining resources and clearing land for usage, but what people don’t understand is that cutting these trees affects us more than we believe. All deforestation does is damage, whether it be people or the wildlife, cutting down forests harms more than it helps.
By clearing forests, we are causing the decline of wildlife. We destroy habitats and increase the vulnerability of animals, and therefore threatening Earth’s biodiversity. About 80% of the world’s documented species live in tropical rainforests (Greenpeace), and when we cut down these forests, we threaten the animals and harm their homes.
Water cycles are disrupted as trees can’t evaporate groundwater, which causes the surrounding climate to become much drier. Soil erosion is accelerated because trees are no longer there to protect and keep the soil in place. Generally speaking, through deforestation, we are disrupting and harming wildlife, which causes an imbalance in the environment.
The disruption and destruction of forests also destabilize oxygen sources and greenhouse gas emissions. Forests play an important role in both the containment of carbon dioxide and the purification of air through oxygen. The loss of forests makes up about six to twelve percent of annual global carbon dioxide emissions. When forests are cut down, carbon absorption stops, and the carbon already stored in the trees is released into the atmosphere. Deforestation also affects global climate change and global warming.
Trees are our main way of storing carbon dioxide, but if we continue cutting trees down and allowing the carbon dioxide to escape into the air, the climate would change drastically, and global warming would most likely speed up. Every year, due to deforestation, an estimated amount of 1.5 billion tons of carbon dioxide is released into the air. Trees are our main source of oxygen, and by cutting these trees down, we are only hurting ourselves and our future (CO2 Emissions From Forest Loss – see below).
When it comes to the future lives of humans, deforestation also poses a threat. The economic importance of forests would impact the quality of our lives, especially so for the millions of people who rely directly and heavily on forests. Those who rely on collecting natural resources or hunting and gathering in forests would be heavily impacted. This economic blowback may also cause social conflicts over resources and other such issues. Damage to nature could halve living standards for the poor and reduce global GDP by about 7% by 2050 (BBC News).
As stated previously, all deforestation does is harm. So the next time you pass a tree or a park, take a moment to appreciate it and all it has done for people. Take a moment to think about the future lives of your descendants and family, and think about what would happen if there was a significant lack of forests.
Think about the environment and how you could help. Plant a tree, become an advocate against deforestation and forest degradation, start protests against harming the environment. Put a little effort into saving Earth, and think about a future that you helped make better.
According to available estimates, forests cover more than one-quarter of the world’s total area. About sixty percent of these forests are situated in tropical countries. However, these forests are disappearing at a very fast pace. Between 1980 and 1995, an area larger than Mexico had been deforested.
This accelerated destruction of forests poses a serious threat to the environmental and economic well-being of the earth. Several studies have demonstrated that natural forests are the single most important repository of terrestrial biological diversity–of ecosystems, species, and genetic resources.
Forests also act as major carbon sinks, absorbing massive quantities of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Deforestation, according to these studies, is directly linked to adverse climate change, soil erosion, desertification, and water cycling. Until recently deforestation was deemed to be a local/national problem. However, increased awareness and scientific data have pointed out that the problem transcends national boundaries. Deforestation affects the entire earth’s environment and economic development.
This collection of essays analyzes the forces responsible for deforestation, the governmental policies that affect this destruction, and the roles multilateral aid agencies, NGOs, play in the environmental debate. The collection critically examines the principles and criteria suggested by forest-experts for a sustained economic growth vis-a-vis forest stewardship in Latin America, Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. An invaluable resource for scholars, students, researchers, and policymakers involved with environmental and public policy issues.
A new study by the World Resources Institute of the UN Food and Agriculture’s (FAO) latest assessment of the world’s forests reports that deforestation may not be slowing down and may have even increased in the tropics.
According to FAO’s Forest Resources Assessment 2000, which will be released today during a high-level meeting in Rome, the global rate of deforestation averaged 9 million hectares per year during the 1990s. FAO claims a slowdown of 20 percent compared with the deforestation rate measured in the first half of the decade.
“FAO’s own data show that the loss of natural forests in the tropics continues to be rapid,” said Emily Matthews, author of the new WRI study, Understanding the Forest Resources Assessment 2000. “For FAO to say that global deforestation is slowing down is misleading given the differences in the regional and subregional conditions of the world’s forests.”
Deforestation rates have increased in tropical Africa, remained constant in Central America, and declined only slightly in tropical Asia and South America. The WRI report, which was endorsed by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), points out that understanding the true rate of deforestation is made more confusing because FAO’s “net rate of change” measures the combined change in natural forest area and plantation area. During the 1990s, an average of 3 million hectares of new plantations was planted globally each year, and FAO counts these as offsetting natural forest loss.
If new plantations are excluded from consideration, it appears that natural forests in the tropics are being lost at the rate of nearly 16 million hectares a year. “The extent of tropical deforestation appears to be higher in all tropical regions except Latin America,” says Matthews. “More tropical forests were lost in the 1990s than the 1980s.”
Bruce Cabarle, Director of the Global Forest Program at WWF-US agrees. “Based on the experience of more than 300 active forest projects in more than 50 countries worldwide, WWF does not believe that deforestation is slowing down, but rather has continued at the same or even higher levels than in the 1980s, and that this is cause for alarm rather than complacency.”
FAO claims that Forest Resources Assessment 2000, the latest in a series of reports issued every ten years, is the most comprehensive in the organization’s 50-year history. It is the leading forest reference for ecologists, climate change scientists, policymakers, and environmental activists.
“No other organization provides such comprehensive information on global forests as FAO and we are concerned that the report’s findings are as accurate as possible,” said Dr. Anthony Janetos, WRI senior vice president and chief of programs. “Accurate monitoring is critical when forests are rapidly disappearing, flora and fauna are at risk of extinction and a wealth of environmental goods and services are being lost.”
FAO has admitted that its forest inventory information remains poor. More than half the developing country inventories used by FAO were either more than 10 years old or incomplete. Some developed country inventories also suffer from major methodological inconsistencies.
WRI’s report pays tribute to FAO’s committed effort to pull together the new global forest assessment in the face of great technical, institutional, and financial constraints but points out that there is an urgent need for greater efforts at national and international levels to improve the quality and timeliness of information available.
To solve the continuing problem of poor data, and inconsistent reporting methods, WRI’s report suggests that FAO should focus its efforts on collecting a core set of information, and collaborate with a wider range of organizations which can offer high-quality information, particularly from satellite images.
“While it is critically important that information on forest extent and rate of change is more accurate, we also need to go further and develop reliable methods to monitor the quality and condition of forests,” says Cabarle.
WRI’s Matthews says that we need to know how forests are changing, and how these changes affect products and key ecosystem goods and services. “At the beginning of the 21st century, it is clear that official data collection efforts still haven’t provided an accurate picture of the extent of the world’s forest or how fast we are losing them.”
The World Resources Institute (http://www.wri.org/wri) is an environmental think tank that goes beyond research to create practical ways to protect the Earth and improve people’s lives.
Example #6 – Effects of Deforestation
The subject of deforestation and the effects that it has on the environment have been heavily debated for a long time; particularly over the last few years. Governments and large lumber companies see large profits in the mass deforestation of forests and state that their actions are having few if any, harmful effects on the environment.
Most people disagree with this and think that the environmental effects are devastating and will become irreversibly disastrous in the very near future. Whether or not the pros outweigh the cons will be hotly debated for years to come but the fact is that deforestation is harmful to the environment and leads to declining wildlife populations, drastic changes in climate, and loss of soil.
The loss of forests means the loss of habitats for many species. Current statistics show that as many as 100 species become extinct every day with a large portion being attributed to deforestation (Delfgaauw, 1996). “Edge effects” are the destruction or degradation of natural habitat that occur on the fringes of fragmented forests.
The effects for the animals include greater exposure to the elements (wind, rain, etc?), other non-forest animals, and humans (Dunbar, 1993). This unnatural extinction of species endangers the world’s food supply, threatens many human resources, and has profound implications for biological diversity.
Another negative environmental impact of deforestation is that it causes climate change all over the world. As we learned in elementary school, plant life is essential to life on earth as it produces much of the oxygen that is required for humans and other organisms to breathe.
The massive destruction of trees negatively affects the quantity and quality of the air we breathe which has direct repercussions on the quantity and quality of life among both humans and animals alike. With this reduced amount of vital plant life comes the increase of carbon dioxide levels in the earth’s atmosphere. With these increased levels of CO-2 come unnatural changes in weather patterns both locally and globally. “The removal of forests would cause rainfall to decline by more than 26%.
The average temperature of the soil will rise and a decline of 30% in the amount of moisture will evaporate into the atmosphere” (Delfgaauw, 1996). This leads to the global warming phenomenon which is also directly related to the declining amounts of forest areas on the earth.
Soil erosion caused by deforestation is also a major concern among even the most amateur environmentalists:
“When rain falls, some may sink to the ground, some may run off the surface of the land, and flowing down towards the rivers and some may evaporate. Running water is a major cause of soil erosion, and as the forests are cut down, it increases erosion” (Delfgaauw, 1996).
The removal of wood causes nutrient loss in the soil, especially if the period between harvests isn’t long enough (Hamilton and Pearce, 1987). Some areas also become “unbalanced” with the removal of tree roots as this removal can cause serious mudslides and instability which can be seen in the tropical rain forests of Australia (Gilmour et al., 1982; as cited in Hamilton and Pearce, 1987) and Malaysia (Peh, 1980; as cited in Hamilton and Pearce, 1987). It should be mentioned that recent logging techniques have decreased the amount of soil erosion under most circumstances but it is nearly impossible to stop erosion from happening.
Whether or not you are a radical environmentalist or just a regular citizen, the consequences of deforestation affect us all. Living in BC we don’t have to drive very far to see the land that has been clear-cut or to see massive protests by people of all ages who want to “save the forests” or “save the environment”. It is evident that reforestation projects are underway and in many cases are quite successful.
Millions of dollars are spent each year (provincially, nationally, and internationally) on reforestation and many experts agree that this is helping provided that the time between harvest is long enough for the area to mature properly. The projections we hear through the media make the situation sound quite bleak but the fact is that private and public awareness has to lead to a decreasing amount of deforestation activity (from what is projected) in many areas such as the Brazilian Amazon Basin (Dunbar, 1993).
Forests are an important part of maintaining the earth’s biological and ecological diversity as well as major factors in the economic well being of many areas. If we can maintain a balance between the two and continue the reforestation efforts, the negative environmental effects could be greatly reduced. Regardless, the negative environmental effects do exist and the severity of them will be debated for many years to come.