Deforestation - Cause and Effects

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Modern predictions and indicators paint a bleak outlook for the planet and unfortunately it is all due to human actions. Deforestation and the spread of barren, arid and useless land is increasing in pace and we are the only ones who can call it to a halt. The questions that need answering quickly before it is too late are how and when. When is obvious, unless we act immediately we will be too late, how is less clear but unless we find the answers soon then we could find ourselves left with nothing but a arid infertile desert of a planet and sooner than you might think.

Perhaps we can blame the men who cut down or burn huge swathes of forest and watch the animals flee to die of starvation after their home and food supply has been destroyed, or those who profit from their actions. Only someone who was insane would do such a thing surely? You certainly wouldn't want to be associated with those that were involved in such wholesale destruction and slaughter and certainly wouldn't be involved yourself, right?

Deforestation for Profit

Forests contain many valuable natural resources and the land they cover is also valuable to an ever-increasing human population. People have been making use of these resources ever since we first appeared. Deforestation is a way of making a living, the timber can be sold, and the land can be used for growing crops or grazing herds or to provide land for homes and businesses. Why is this allowed to happen?

Those people that are entrusted by us with the planet are those who are destroying it. Governments give permits and licenses to those who have the money to buy them they then strip the land and make their money. The governments are often poor and the land is more valuable to large corporations than used for conservation and tourism. But these governments are selling off the planets life support system and that cannot continue.

We may be frustrated in the face of such insurmountable obstacles but we can challenge these large corporations by refusing to buy their products and lobby governments to protect forested areas. If enough people say no then they will be forced to act. The planet has been entrusted to all of us and it is up to us to save it even now at the 11th hour it isn't too late. Even small actions if done by enough people add up to a massive effect.

Reversing Deforestation

Nature on the whole is resilient and bounces back extremely fast if given the chance. However forests are slow to re grow and mature. Once the soil has been eroded it could take centuries for it to build up again and start supporting anywhere near the diversity of life it once did. Millions of species have been wiped out never to be seen again in fact most were never seen by human eyes before being driven to extinction.

This does not mean we should not try to protect and restore these amazing and diverse habitats, which do so much for us and ask only to be left to exist in return.

What is Deforestation?

In recent times, mankind has felt the wrath of nature. More and more natural disasters are taking place due to human induced climate change. This has lead to an increasing awareness of our impact on the planet we call home and it's natural resources. Forests are some of our most abused habitats due to the fact that wood is a raw material with a wide range of uses and fill virtually al of our basic needs particularly food, fuel and shelter.

Another important influencing factor for deforestation is the need for more land, so forests are cleared to make way for industrial development, housing or agriculture (either livestock or crops) or even a dump.

By Definition

Deforestation is the clearing or removal of trees from an area of woodland or forest for many differing reason usually commercial. Deforestation usually doesn't apply to cases where the trees are replaced, usually as saplings, in the same or alternative location in order to replace those that were cut down. Also usually refers to large scale clearing of whole areas rather than limited or selective clearing.

Man has cut down trees since we first appeared, changing and adapting the environment to suit our needs in order to provide the things we require to live successfully. For kindling, shelter, weapons and in more modern times paper, furniture and housing. Thousands upon thousands of acres of forest have disappeared worldwide to fill our insatiable appetite for wood and land, yet they also have to meet the demands of the vast majority of the worlds other species both plant and animal.

Raising Consciousness

Humans are roused to action when an issue directly affects them. This is undoubtedly the reason people are more aware than ever of the effects of deforestation as more and more people become affected by climate change and extreme weather events.

It is these effects that are the most effective way of showing people the benefits forests provide and why it is so vital the little we have left be protected at all costs. The depletion of the forests has a number of detrimental effects on the environment and climate. There are two main thrusts to this argument. The first is the environmental services that forests provide such as maintaining our atmosphere and slowing global warming and protecting us from floods. The second is the need to ensure a reliable and sustainable supply of natural resources. I.e. if they are being used and managed properly and ensuring reforestation occurs.

First the environmental benefits forests help maintain the balance of gases in the atmosphere particularly oxygen and carbon dioxide. The trees ability to take carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and trap it is our most important weapon in the battle against climate change. Cutting down and burning trees releases the green house gas back into the atmosphere worsening the problem. It is these green house gases that are causing global warming and extreme weather events.

In many cases the timber is simply burned to clear the land quickly which is the worst possible thing to do especially when it could be put to good use providing for those who might be in need of it. Finally woodland traps water and act as sponges when water levels are high reducing the chances of flooding.

Why does Deforestation Happen?

We are now learning the consequences of trying to battle against nature, yet change is slow and we are still abusing the natural world. With our knowledge we should be doing all we can to stop further deforestation so why does deforestation continue despite the harm we know it does to the environment and thus ourselves?

The answers are not straightforward but undoubtedly lie with us and our desperate need for the resources the forest provides. The needs of a massive human population have to be met daily putting the natural world under enormous pressure. We constantly look for new ways to get what we need faster and more efficiently. But the more efficiently we exploit nature the quicker natural resources are used up and disappear. This leads to new ways of getting what we need or finding new resources to exploit depleting the natural world even faster, it's a vicious cycle that leads to the devastation of our beautiful planet.

The Global Man Made Phenomenon

Man has been clearing woodland since ancient times but it is recently in the last century that the world's forests and rainforests have been dramatically reduced shrinking in size year on year at an ever more furious pace. Until fairly recently there was little real opposition from the public or government as the seemed to be no real viable alternatives and so it continues to this day.

Land is a finite commodity in a world with an ever-growing human population. Developed land is worth far more than forest so the forest is clear to make way for large-scale development and agriculture. Wood is unfortunately worth nothing standing growing in a forest but far more as a piece of paper, furniture or even a house. Profit driven by the high demand for these resources is the reason these forests are disappearing.

There are many resources which can be gathered from the forest such as food and medicines though the main product is wood which has a wide variety of uses from paper to a building material and even as a fuel. With lumber having such a number of uses and a strong demand then it should have a strong impact on economic growth. But forest values are actually falling, a surprising trend given that forests are fast disappearing and man's propensity towards exploiting limited resources for profit.

Why Does Deforestation Result in Devastation?

Experts don't see deforestation as an all-bad thing as long as it is done in an environmentally sensitive and sustainable way. It is a matter of careful controlling how and where you clear areas of forest. A small area of clearing provides opportunities for opportunistic species and is quickly recolonized and breaks in the canopy quickly filled.

Large areas take longer to recolonise and separate areas of forest previously joined. They also allow the wind and rain to erode the soil making recolonization by forest plants much harder. Rain forests typically have very thin soil which is held in place by the roots of the giant trees and with out which quickly disappears.

Wildlife that lives in the forest cannot survive in the open and so has to retreat with the forest or if it cannot die. Under the canopy is a moist dank warm environment as the plants trap the heat and moisture from escaping, without these very specific conditions, which exist in few other places many species are unable to survive.

So who is the culprit? You we all play a part in deforestation to a lesser or greater degree though the choices we make when shopping daily. We can't point the blame solely on governments and big corporations though they certainly play a big part but it is our willingness to block out the knowledge of where the things we buy come from and how they are produced that means they can carry on destroying the earth and it is unlikely to stop until we make it with our consumer choices.

Effects of Deforestation

Humans have always and probably always will depended on forests to a lesser or greater degree. Trees provide food, shelter from the elements and predators not just to humans but the vast majority of life on land. Unfortunately the forests resources and appeal is its downfall.

Deforestation is probably one of the greatest challenges we face. We need the forests to maintain the atmosphere alongside the burning of fossil fuels our destruction of the forests is a major contributory factor to the rising levels of carbon dioxide and global warming, the effects of which we are only now beginning to feel.

Large-scale deforestation for agricultural and industrial purposes transforms rich and diverse habitat in barren arid land. The resources are quickly repeated and another massive are of forest has to be destroyed to provide yet more. The damage to the land and soil has been done and little can grow on these areas once they have been finished with. Deforestation needs to be stopped before we end up with a planet that is little more than an arid wasteland incapable of supporting life.

Effects of Deforestation on the Environment

Rainforests are the richest and most diverse areas on the planet and are home to the vast majority of the worlds species, many yet to be seen or classified by science. Any one can wander into a rainforest and will fairly quickly discover a new species.

This biodiversity took many millions of years to evolve and can be destroyed with the swipe of a powerful saw. There is no possibility of getting back the estimated 50,000 species that go extinct every year a ' that is increasing. The chance to explore this forest world is disappearing fast and won't come again once it's gone, a chance future generations won't thank us for denying them.

Not only are countless species being lost but also the chance to increase or knowledge of the world, chemicals and medicines unknown to science are out waiting to be discovered. The preservation of the rainforest also means the chance to explore these opportunities and make new discoveries and advance human knowledge.

Effects of Deforestation on Society

The indigenous people, whose home and way of life is turned upside down by the arrival of the lumber lorries, will feel much of the effects of deforestation. They survive by living in harmony with the forest and it's inhabitants but are often forced to leave or change their way of living in order to survive. This displacement of people and the consequent loss of that culture makes the human race a little poorer. Those that live on the edges of the forest are also affected, as they can no longer gather resources from it for themselves.

These people are unused to living in towns and cities a totally alien culture and are unlikely to have the money, skills or education to make a decent living having learned to live off the land.

Nature cannot be completely replaced by our own efforts even after all our recent advances in technology she does it better than us. Nature serves us in far better ways than the best designed structures and industry, yet we treat her with nothing but contempt and unless we stop the consequences will be dire.

Deforestation and Climate Change

Throughout history forests have spread and retreated as the environment changed now they are fast disappearing. They shelter the vast majority of land animals and hold most of the land biodiversity. These beautiful and complex ecosystems are essential to the environment and help to regulate the atmosphere. Hence deforestation and climate change are closely connected and have the ability to control one another.

Unfortunately the forests, which should be our first line of defense against rising carbon dioxide levels, are vanishing rapidly. 80% of our previously forested areas are gone drastically reducing the planets ability to absorb carbon dioxide and contributing to the high levels of the green house gas by releasing it after being cut down making the situation worse. The fact that deforestation can further affect the atmosphere should stir us into action to prevent any further reduction in the world's forests. We will just be adding to the devastating effects of climate change if we don't take action to stop further deforestation.

Major Carbon Storehouses

It has become increasingly apparent that forests play a vital role in climate control by storing carbon and water and recycling it. It is a fact that the destruction of green areas is a contributory factor in climate change and eliminates their ability to regulate the climate. It has been estimate the 18% of all carbon emissions come from deforestation and we are effectively turning our prize weapon against global warming against ourselves instead.

Mature forests are the largest stores of carbon dioxide though all plants store carbon. Other stores include the soil, vegetation frozen underneath the arctic permafrost even the algae in the sea. The world largest forests such as the Amazon represent our largest carbon stores, it's destruction would undoubted lead to quick and devastating climate change.

Carbon is released from plant life through burning and natural decay. Burning releases the carbon much faster and more efficiently than natural decay or rotting. If left to nature plants will rot slowly especially large trees and the carbon is often buried and the carbon trapped below ground where it slowly fossilizes to produce various compounds depending upon the conditions ranging from diamonds to fossil fuels over many millennia. This whole process traps the carbon and prevents it entering the atmosphere. Deforestation prevents this natural process from taking pace.

Climate Change

A combination of deforestation and the burning of fossil fuels releasing much larger amounts of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere than would occur naturally whilst simultaneously disabling the planets ability to absorb and cope with this influx in green house gases has lead to the current climate changes and noticeable global warming. The main effects of climate change have been a rise in temperature throughout the year leading to widespread environmental change species moving their ranges further north to follow the increase in temperature. Melting of the polar ice caps leads to a reduction in range for polar species. A consequent rise in sea levels leads to flooding of low lying land. More violent and extreme weather systems lead to the devastation of affected areas and causing huge loss of life.

This isn't a prediction of what will happen in the future it's happening now and maybe irreversible already. So now an immediate damage limitation exercise need to take place to ensure the climate doesn't get out of control this has to involve the protection and restoration of the world's forests.

Effects of deforestation. Retrieved Feb 15, 2010, from http://www.effects-of-deforestation.com/

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