What is Deforestation? – Definition, Causes, and Effect

What is deforestation?

Deforestation is the permanent removal of trees to make way for something other than forest. This could include clearing the land for agriculture or grazing or using the wood for fuel, construction, or manufacture. Forests cover more than 30% of the earth’s land surface, according to the World Wildlife Fund.

Deforestation Also refers to the decrease in forest areas around the world that are lost to other uses, such as arable land, urbanization, or mining activities. Deforestation, which has been greatly accelerated by human activity since 1960, has negatively impacted natural ecosystems, biodiversity, and the climate.

These forest areas can provide food, medicine and fuel to more than a billion people. Globally, forests provide forestry jobs to 13.4 million people, and another 41 million people have forest-related jobs.

Forests are a resource, but they are also large, undeveloped tracts of land that can be converted for uses such as agriculture and grazing. In North America, between the 17th and late 19th centuries, about half of the forests in the eastern part of the continent were cut down for timber and agriculture, according to National Geographic.

Deforestation

What are the causes of deforestation?

Direct causes of deforestation are agricultural expansion, wood extraction (e.g., logging or wood harvest for domestic fuel or charcoal), and infrastructure expansion such as road building and urbanization. Rarely is there a single direct cause for deforestation?

Among direct causes are:

  • Natural causes as hurricanes, fires, parasites, and floods
  • Human activities as agricultural expansion, cattle breeding, timber extraction, mining, oil extraction, dam construction, and infrastructure development.

Among indirect causes are:

  • Insufficient political actions and governance failure as inadequate land tenure system, corruption, wrong public administration investments
  • Political and socio-economic causes as population growth, military conflicts and climatic changes

The main causes of deforestation can actually be lead back especially to:

  • substitution of forest areas with cultivations and breeding
  • timber extraction
  • firewood collection
  • road and infrastrucutre construction

1. Cultivations and livestock farming

Infact, we should take into account that in terms of the substitution of forest land by cultivators and ranchers, the impact is much higher, since after the most valuable trees destined for the commercialization of wood are extracted, forests are set on fire, resulting in a large exposure leads to effects on local animals and plants. The most catastrophic year for the Amazon forest was 1991, when over 50,000 fires were registered through aerial photography or satellite images.

2. Timber extraction

Centuries-old trees are felled to produce wood or cellulose for the furniture or paper industry. Any system used to cut wood causes serious damage to the ecosystem. This damage is compounded by the construction of roads required for vehicles and the transportation of chopped wood to its destination. For this reason, many other economically unattractive trees that have important biological and ecological value are also felled.

3. Firewood collection

This activity is particularly carried out by indigenous populations who, due to recent population growth, must provide sources of energy for their survival. This phenomenon contributes to the widespread use of industrial wood.

4. Road Construction

Besides the construction of roads to transport timber, also dam construction and industrial exploitation of mines contribute to massive deforestation

What are effect of deforestation?

The loss of trees and other vegetation can cause climate change, desertification, soil erosion, fewer crops, flooding, increased greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, and a host of problems for indigenous people.

Environmental Effects of Deforestation From Above

Loss of Habitat

One of the most dangerous and worrying effects of deforestation is the loss of animal and plant species due to habitat loss. 70% of land animals and plant species live in forests. Deforestation threatens not only known but also unknown species.

The trees of the rainforest, which provide shelter for some species, also form the canopy that regulates temperature. Deforestation results in a more drastic change in temperature from day to night, similar to what happens in a desert, which could prove fatal to many residents.

Increased Greenhouse Gases

In addition to habitat loss, the lack of trees also enables a greater amount of greenhouse gases to be released into the atmosphere. Healthy forests absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and act as valuable carbon sinks. Deforested areas lose this ability and release more carbon.

Water in the atmosphere

The trees also help control the water level in the atmosphere by regulating the water cycle. In deforested areas there is less water in the air that can be returned to the ground. This then leads to drier soil and the inability to grow crops.

Environmental Effects of Deforestation From Below

Soil Erosion and Flooding

Other effects of deforestation are soil erosion and coastal flooding. Trees help the land hold back water and topsoil, which provides the rich nutrients to sustain additional forest life.

Without forests, the soil erodes and washes away, causing farmers to move on and continue the cycle. The barren land that is left as a result of these unsustainable agricultural practices is then more vulnerable to flooding, especially in coastal areas.

Effects of Deforestation on Indigenous People

Destruction of Homelands

As large amounts of forests are being cleared, which can destroy exposed soil and destroy the habitats of countless species, the indigenous communities living there are also threatened, and they rely on the forest to maintain their way of life.

The loss of forests has immediate and direct effects on their lifestyles that we will never experience in the highly industrialized parts of the world despite our own dependence on what the rainforest has to offer. The degree of immediacy is exponentially higher for indigenous peoples.

The governments of nations with rainforests on their borders often try to evict indigenous tribes before the actual deforestation begins. This is one of the preventive effects of deforestation.

Benefits of Deforestation

1. It is a means of livelihood.

One of the advantages of deforestation is it’s being a source of income for farmers who cut down trees to be made into coal and be sold as fuel. Moreover, trees from forests are also made into construction and building materials to build houses.

This helps not to provide shelter to people but also to boon the construction industry. Another use of deforestation in livelihood is through the conversion of forests into agricultural or farmlands to be used by farmers to plant crops.

2. It makes expansion possible.

Another benefit of deforestation is the transformation of forests into paved roads to transport goods and commodities to other places and meet the demands of consumers. Also, it can be used by industries for different kinds of businesses such as infrastructure, construction, and theme parks.

3. It can be a source of materials.

Deforestation results in the availability of trees that can be made into timber and be used for construction. Aside from this, other parts of the trees have numerous uses such as sap used to become paper, toothpick, tissue, and food, among others.

4. It offers more job opportunities.

To make the clearing of the forest possible, manpower is needed. This does not only include engineers but also skilled workers who are given the chance to earn and provide for their families.

Also, those who convert some parts of the forest and convert them to farmlands become agriculturists and entrepreneurs. People who invest money to create theme parks or tourist attractions employ workers to build and operate their businesses.

5. It contributes to industrialization.

Forests encompass large areas of land which can be used to build manufacturing plants and additional infrastructure. All these are all indications that a country or community is developing and becoming industrialized. Consequently, there can also be a boom of the economy.

6. It provides food for animals.

Farmers and agriculturists who feed animals by sending them to forests are also benefiting from deforestation. By using the method of animal grazing for deforestation, they not only expand their land areas but also are able to keep their livestock healthy and well-fed.

What are the solutions to deforestation?

The best solution to deforestation is to curb the felling of trees by enforcing a series of rules and laws to govern it. Deforestation in the current scenario may have reduced; however, it would be too early to assume. The money-churner nature of forest resources can be tempting enough for deforestation to continue.

Following are solution to deforestation:

  • Government Regulations
  • Banning Clear-Cutting of Forests
  • Reforestation and Afforestation
  • Reduce Consumption of Paper
  • Educate Others
  • Eat Less Meat
  • Purchase from Sustainable, Forest-Friendly Companies
  • Reduce Consumption of Deforestation Prone Products

1. Government Regulations

The best solution to deforestation is to curb the felling of trees by enforcing a series of rules and laws to govern it. Deforestation in the current scenario may have reduced; however, it would be too early to assume.

The money-churner nature of forest resources can be tempting enough for deforestation to continue.

2. Banning Clear-Cutting of Forests

This will curb the total depletion of the forest cover. It is a practical solution and is very feasible.

3. Reforestation and Afforestation

Land skinned of its tree cover for urban settlements should be urged to plant trees in the vicinity and replace the cut trees. Also, the cutting must be replaced by planting young trees to replace the older ones that were cut.

Trees are being planted under several initiatives every year, but they still don’t match the numbers of the ones we’ve already lost.

4. Reduce Consumption of Paper

Your daily consumption of paper includes printing paper, notebooks, napkins, toilet paper, etc. Try to reduce consumption, reduce waste of paper and also opt for recycled paper products.

Make life simple such as printing/writing on both sides of the paper, using less toilet paper, avoiding paper plates, and napkins and wherever possible, go paperless.

5. Educate Others

Still, many are entirely unaware of the global warming problem we’re facing. Educate your friends, family, and community by sharing the deforestation facts, and its causes and effects. You can make an impact!

6. Eat Less Meat

Livestock rearing has become one of the leading causes of deforestation. Try to eat less meat. It may be hard for some people to try. However, eating less meat, even just for one meal a day, will also make an extreme impact on the environment.

7. Purchase from Sustainable, Forest-Friendly Companies

Try to purchase from companies that are committed to reducing deforestation. Asian Pulp and Paper, Disney, L’Oreal, Hershey, Unilever, Willmar International are deforestation-free.

8. Reduce Consumption of Deforestation Prone Products

Palm oil is a common ingredient in absolutely everything we see around us. Make it a simple habit to get a quick peek at the ingredients. Soybeans are another deforestation hotspot.

FAQ

What does deforestation mean?

Deforestation refers to the decrease in forest areas across the world that are lost for other uses such as agricultural croplands, urbanization, or mining activities. Greatly accelerated by human activities since 1960, deforestation has been negatively affecting natural ecosystems, biodiversity, and the climate.

What are the causes of deforestation?

Direct causes of deforestation are agricultural expansion, wood extraction (e.g., logging or wood harvest for domestic fuel or charcoal), and infrastructure expansion such as road building and urbanization. Rarely is there a single direct cause for deforestation?

What are effect of deforestation?

The loss of trees and other vegetation can cause climate change, desertification, soil erosion, fewer crops, flooding, increased greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, and a host of problems for indigenous people.

What are the solutions to deforestation?

The best solution to deforestation is to curb the felling of trees by enforcing a series of rules and laws to govern it. Deforestation in the current scenario may have reduced; however, it would be too early to assume. The money-churner nature of forest resources can be tempting enough for deforestation to continue.

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