Deforestation leads to even less carbon dioxide being absorbed, aside from ecological damage.
Forests – Lungs of Earth
While forests definitely serve humans in so many ways from providing shade to food, fodder, medicine, timber and providing good quality air, but thinking that this is the only objective it is serving is undermining the importance of forests.
That they help in watershed protection, preventing soil erosion and therefore help during flooding and rainfall is again oriented towards serving humanity.
The real powerful role that all the forests in the world are collectively playing is storing carbon dioxide released by processes either natural or man-made.
That is something that is conducive for life as it exists today on the Earth.
After oceans, forests are the world’s largest storehouses of carbon. And hence Forests are rightly called as the “lungs of the earth”.
What is Deforestation?
Forests could be considered a kind of generous gift that helped in survival of so many species.
Getting rid of the natural forests on a massive scale driven by whatsoever motives is called deforestation.
Invariably, the trees once felled get replaced by plantation, farm lands or other urban use. If we were replacing the forests with more and similar trees in a systematic way, it may have worked.
The worst victims of the deforestation are tree species and other animal species that depend on these forests.
More than half of all plant and land animal species in the world live in tropical forests.
As per United Nations, Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) approximately 18 million acres of forest land is lost each year. It is estimated that at the current rate of deforestation, the world’s rain forest could completely vanish in a span of 100 years(NG, 2019).
What Are The Causes Of Deforestation?
Well, most of the deforestation is driven by human greed and then there are some natural factors such as wildfires.
Even though wildfires on its own can help in regeneration of forests if these are left to recover, but more often than not, these lands becomes targets for grazing.
So even though sometimes the factor can be natural, it is often related with human intervention.
Even in today’s world, one of the prime drivers for felling trees is fuel wood use.
Another driver is illegal logging. Illegal logging is mostly for meeting human demands of housing, timber, paper, furniture or clearing land.
This land could be for potential pasture grounds for livestock or for cultivation of palm oil and soy plantations for animal feed.
The scale of illegal logging is so immense that by some estimates it accounts for 50-90% of all forestry activities in key producer tropical forests, such as in Amazon, Central Africa and Southeast Asia, and it also accounts for 15-30% of all wood traded globally(WWF, 2019).
What Are The Effects Of Deforestation?
Deforestation has negative impact on the environment in more than one way.
It leads to extinctions, temperature increase & climate change, desertification and disrupted livelihoods.
Temperature increase & Climate change: Forest canopy maintains microclimate by blocking sun’s direct radiation. As soon as the canopy is lost, the radiation balance shifts as local microclimate shifts owing to more heat on that location.
Lack of forest impacts the local fauna and then further exposure to heat can be disruptive for the fauna and flora.
Local temperature variation is one thing but overall reduction of carbon absorption because of felling of trees leads to global warming.
This excess carbon dioxide traps more heat from the sun’s radiation through the greenhouse gas effect.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) estimates that the deforestation contributes close to 20% of the overall greenhouse gases entering the atmosphere.
While forests have been working as sinks before human interventions, unfortunately deforestation is one of the leading causes of global warming now, thus contributing to climate change.
Extinction: It may be a shocking discovery for most people to know that what we think is the diversity of species that we know about is indeed very few species dominating a large part of Earth’s landmass.
About 70% Earth’s land animals and plants are found in forests. Steady decline in number of species have the potential to wipe out the entire ecosystem niches, this may lead to massive species extinctions (NG, 2019).
Desertification: As mentioned above forests create a local microclimate and this helps in soil moisture retention as well.
Evapotranspiration through the trees helps in the water cycle of the atmosphere. Losing the forest and direct heat on the land pushes the land to become dry.
Slowly, the land may stop supporting vegetations and that perpetuates desertification.
Disrupted livelihoods: Whether it is south east Asian forests, or South American or African, number of forest dwellers in our world are huge.
Efforts to Control Deforestation
· At an individual level, plant as many trees and maintain those trees as possible.
· Make choices that assure that you are not perpetuating illegal logging, so look for FSC certified or wood from sustainably managed forests.
· Make community efforts for mass afforestation projects, offset your carbon through afforestation projects especially in tropical rainforest areas which are known as biodiversity hotspots.
- It may also be important to know the managed and maintained national forests and their extent.
- Join advocacy groups that help in enforcing law that helps afforestation efforts or reduces deforestation activities. Offset your personal carbon through afforestation projects.
- Using less paper, or recycled paper and buying sustainably sourced products,
- Consumer awareness on certified forestry products from wood to gums and resins helps create positive impacts on the forests that otherwise remain under threat.
Live Science, 2019: Deforestation: https://www.livescience.com/27692-deforestation.html
AZA, 2019: Deforestation, causes and effects: http://www.aridzoneafforestation.org/the-problem-of-deforestation-causes-effects-and-possible-solutions/
NG, 2019:Global warming and deforestation: https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/global-warming/deforestation/
WWF, 2019: Deforestation causes illegal logging http://wwf.panda.org/our_work/forests/deforestation_causes/illegal_logging/