Forests support a wide range of flora and animals across the globe. Yet, the wildlife that reside in the woods are only part of the reasons they are valuable. By balancing greenhouse gas emissions, making the air in our atmosphere breathable, and preventing against climate change, they play a vital role in the world’s carbon cycle.
Yet, the whole planet suffers as businesses chop down more and more of our forests to make way for agriculture and industry. Every year, deforestation wreaks havoc on the environment, causes human deaths, and kills millions of animals.
What Is Deforestation?
Deforestation is the intentional, natural, or unintentional destruction of trees. It can affect any region with a lot of tree and plantlife, but the Amazon rainforest is where it is currently most prevalent.
Climate change, desertification, soil erosion, decreased agricultural productivity, flooding, higher greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, and a variety of issues for indigenous communities may all result from the deforestation of trees and other flora.
Deforestation is caused by a variety of factors, with extensive cattle ranching accounting for 80% of the deforestation. Deforestation for agriculture and building also contribute to the problem.
Since man began converting from hunter/gatherer to agricultural-based communities, it has been occurring for thousands of years, maybe since the beginning of agriculture when animals needed bigger, unobstructed tracks of land. It wasn’t until the onset of the modern era that it became an epidemic.
Why Forests Matter
Forests are important for the health of our planet, in addition to being stunningly lovely. From fungus and insects to tigers and elephants, they supply food and shelter for so much of life on Earth.
Forests support the life of more than half of the world’s land-based plants and animals, as well as three-quarters of all birds.
Rainfall patterns, water and soil quality, and flood mitigation are all influenced by forests. Forests are home to millions of people and provide a livelihood for many more.
Deforestation, on the other hand, poses even greater risks. Carbon dioxide is absorbed and stored by trees. Forests release carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases when they are disturbed or even cleared.
Around 10% of global warming is caused by forest loss and damage. We can’t combat the climate issue unless we halt deforestation, which is impossible.
We need to protect forests now more than ever.
Why Is Deforestation Happening?
Unfortunately, the majority of deforestation is caused by various actions, the most of them intentional. Now, let’s take a look at some of the main reasons for deforestation:
Agriculture is one of the mainstays of the economy. This is the most common source of deforestation, accounting for 70% of all deforestation globally. A lot of agriculture takes place on forest land, and it involves any process of growing plants or animals. Beef, soy, and palm oil are the main deforestation culprits in the agricultural industry.
To encourage a less harmful way of food production, many farmers are adopting sustainable agricultural practices. 24% of global greenhouse gas emissions come from agriculture and forestry, so it’s clear that agriculture is critical to sustainability.
Urban sprawl is the result of this. Urban sprawl, or the spread of buildings and developments over vast areas of land, is another element contributing to the deforestation of our woods. Building valuable forest acreage has a negative impact on the environment, and it destroys habitats for native animals.
We are seeing a hastening rise in urban construction to accommodate the growing number of humans as the planet’s population expands. We can anticipate to see greater pollution and energy usage in this region as a result of the harm it is inflicting on our forests. Sustainable building methods may help to minimize the effect of urban sprawl.
Our Sustainable Cities and Development course gives you a chance to learn more about sustainable cities and development.
Mining is a big part of the economy. Despite the fact that mining isn’t typically considered when contemplating forest destruction, it is a significant cause. A considerable number of trees and vegetation must be removed and burnt before mining can begin. As a consequence, mining is blamed for over 10% of Amazon deforestation.
The Amazon forests are home to a lot of gold mining, which has serious consequences that last for a long time.
The Connection Between Factory Farming Pollution And Deforestation
billions of animals are killed and raised every year for human consumption by the factory farming industry. Unfortunately, this procedure hurts our planet as much as it hurts animals.
Thousands of animals are forced to live in confined conditions in factory farms. These sites produce such a high volume of garbage that it pollutes the surrounding air, water, and land, exposing people in neighboring villages to serious health issues.
Moreover, the industrial farm pollution has far-reaching consequences that go beyond the local region. Animal waste generates greenhouse gases, which endanger the livelihoods of people across the globe and exacerbate global warming.
Forests act as a “carbon sink,” protecting the environment from the dangers of global warming by taking in carbon dioxide and converting it into oxygen. When there are too many greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, the “greenhouse effect” occurs, trapping heat from the sun and increasing global atmospheric temperatures.
The greenhouse effect is the most common human-driven climate change, according to scientists. More greenhouse gas stays in the atmosphere when people chop down forests, adding to the climate problem since industrial agriculture produces more emissions.
We can’t live without fresh, breathable air, but we can’t live without factory farms. Our planet, and our species, are on the verge of collapse if deforestation and factory farming continue unabated.
Why Do People Destroy Forests?
Deforestation happens when people chop down or clear-cut forested land in order to build farms or grazing pastures. Only four commodities, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS): beef, soy, palm oil, and wood products, are largely to blame for the great majority of tropical deforestation.
Every year, the UCS claims that 14,800 square miles (38,300 square km) of forest is destroyed in an area the size of Switzerland.
When land is being cleared for agricultural purposes, people often start fires. First, workers collect valuable timber and burn the surrounding vegetation to make room for crops such as soy or cow grazing. Human-lit fires in Brazil increased dramatically in 2019.
More over 80,000 blazes raged in the Amazon as of August 2019, an increase of nearly 80% from the previous year, according to National Geographic.
To make space for palm oil plantations, many woods are cut down. Palm oil (opens in new tab) is the most widely used vegetable oil, and it can be found in half of all supermarket items.
The global palm oil market was valued at $36.71 billion in 2019, and it has seen “unprecedented growth,” according to a 2020 study by Business Wire(opens in new tab). The cultivation of trees that produce the oil destroys local forest andlevels native forest, which has a double harmful impact on the environment.
Why Is Deforestation So Harmful?
Deforestation has a significant negative influence on the ecosystem, as we all know, but let’s dive a little deeper. Deforestation has what types of negative consequences?
Global warming is a term used to describe the phenomenon. Deforestation is a significant source of greenhouse gas emissions. When trees are cut down, they release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere that had been stored there. Several greenhouse gases are absorbed by trees, which would otherwise contribute to global warming. More carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere as there are fewer trees to absorb it.
Trees are a massive line of defense against climate change, since they can absorb 48 pounds of carbon dioxide each year. Check out our Climate Change: Solutions course for more information on how we may address climate change.
Air quality is a major concern. Forests are an important component of sustaining the ecosystem, more than just lovely and calming settings. Deforestation decreases oxygen production, which is one of its consequences.
By producing oxygen via photosynthesis, trees are able to “cleanse” the air. The mass destruction of trees removes any oxygen they may potentially produce, since trees are large and contribute significantly to oxygen production.
Biological variety is a term used to describe Biological diversity refers to the variety of life forms and their ecological functions.
Biodiversity is critical to sustaining our planet, as we discussed in our 6 ways to avoid extinction blog article. Forests support more than 80% of all species on the planet, and destroying them puts these species in jeopardy. Overpopulation and extinction are the outcomes.
Deforestation has a domino effect thatdestroys these relationships, not just with animals but also with plants. A trophic cascade can result from the extinction of even one species, resulting in the extinction of many more.
Many distinct species live in the forests, and when they are destroyed by deforestation, they will all lose their homes. Animals, on the other hand, are not only threatened by habitat destruction. Deforestation inhibits herbivore food sources, increases human interaction, and heightens the risk of predation.
Effect of Deforestation on Animals and Plants
Animals are among the first to be harmed by deforestation, in addition to Indigenous tribes. More than 80% of all terrestrial animal, plant, and insect species live in forests across the globe.
The loss of biodiversity, however, is unprecedented due to the fast destruction of forests. Deforestation has a significant impact on animals and plants because it destroys their habitat. Driving species to extinction is aided by a number of factors related to tree cutting.
Soil nutrients are depleted, which is a major source of nourishment for both animals and plants. This occurs due to land erosion. Moreover, several animal species are almost entirely dependent on certain plants and fruits for food.
Animals get weaker, more susceptible to illnesses, and frequently die of starvation when these resources are gone. Trees play a significant function in forest temperature regulation and upkeep. The temperature changes more dramatically from day to night when deforestation takes place, and many animal species may die as a result of this abrupt change.
What Can Be Done?
Reducing deforestation will take governments, firms, and local communities working together to agree on enforceable policy modifications, as the Amazon case illustrates. Individuals like you and me, however, can use our buying and political power to aid accelerate the process, according to Terrana. Here are a few examples:
The majority of deforestation around the world is driven by commodities such as beef, soy, palm oil, and wood products. Terrana, on the other hand, believes that even if demand for these items vanished like magic tomorrow, something else would replace them.
Every time you make a purchase, it’s important to be a smart consumer and wonder where all of your items come from, how they were produced, and whether or not you really need them.
The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certificate is presently the leading forest certification system, and it ensures that a product didn’t contribute to deforestation or human rights abuses.
On guitars, speakers, and notebooks, you may see the FSC logo (the outline of a small tree that becomes a checkmark). When feasible, Terrana advises purchasing FSC-certified products and inquiring about certification from firms that do not have the logo. This conveys to companies that consumers value forest conservation.
The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) certification ensures that sustainable palm oil was not harvested and doesn’t contribute to deforestation. This logo can be found on a variety of food and personal care items produced with palm oil, according to Terrana, though it is less common than FSC’s.
Beyond tree planting: You may have heard that companies and governments pay for tree plantings to help with their carbon emissions. It shouldn’t absolve anyone for harming intact forests by planting trees (unless it’s done incorrectly).
That’s a textbook example of greenwashing if a company finances tree plantings after producing goods on deforested land. Remember that, in addition to planting new woods, we have to preserve the ones we already have as we search for firms and polices to support.
If you live in the United States, contact your elected officials. On the issue of illegal deforested items entering the nation, where does your legislator stand on The Forest Act, a federal bill? Write to your legislative bodies and let them know that you support measures like these if deforestation is something that matters to you.
Finally, with platforms like Mongabay and Global Forest Watch, keep learning, supporting, and sharing information on deforestation; donate to organizations protecting forests like Amazon Watch; and continue discussing and debating this topic with your community.
Countries Most Impacted By Deforestation
Deforestation happens mostly in the tropics, where different kinds of woods may be found, from wet and hot rainforests to those that lose their leaves during the dry season and turn into woodlands.
While other regions have experienced a decline in their forest area, others have succeeded in protecting theirs from degradation.
Between 1990 and 2010, 6 million hectares of tropical land were converted from forest to agriculture, according to the FAO report. The Amazon rainforest, Indonesia, and Borneo, as well as Africa, are three significant worldwide examples of deforestation that differ significantly.