The year 2011 was named “The International Year of Forests” in order to convey worldwide considerations and worries to the forests. Forests cover around 33% of the earth’s land surface and are crucial not only for environment, but also for human beings, providing numerous environmental advantages, including a noteworthy role in the water and carbon cycle, soil protection, prevention of climate change, and conservation of biodiversity-biological diversity. A great deal of people lives in and depend upon them for practically everything, from shelter to medication to daily food. Enough
confirmation is available that the entire world is confronting an environmental crisis because of substantial deforestation. Deforestation is the permanent destruction of native forests and woods. The world’s forests continue to vanish at a threatening speed. In some places, the green and lively Earth is transforming into desolate and dead areas. Deforestation is a huge ongoing process caused by multiple direct and indirect reasons and threatening the health of human beings and the environment through wildlife extinction, increasing global warming, climate change, floods, and soil erosion.
The reasons of deforestation can be divided into 2 groups: direct and indirect or underlying. According to Culas, deforestation is a complex process generated by different causes at different levels (qtd. in Daniels 80). One of the biggest direct causes of deforestation is agriculture, transformation forests to croplands and pastures or fields. Ranchers or farmers cut forests to make available areas for
raising livestock (farm animals) or growing crops (plants, plant products) until the soil is exhausted of nutrients and turned into worthless areas. Then, farmers move on to clear more forest. For instance, in Latin America the majority of the deforested land ended up as pasture or field used to raise cattle in extensive grazing systems (Daniels 74-90). Another method of destroying forests for agriculture use is process called slash and burn agriculture when small farmers clear a few acres by cutting down trees and burning them. The second direct cause of deforestation is logging operations, the process of cutting down trees and
transporting the logs to make wood and paper supplies or use as a fuel. If farmers are motivated by using forest lands for agriculture, then loggers are motivated by using cut down trees for commercial interest. Countless trees are cut down each year to satisfy worldwide demand of wood products by loggers, mostly in Southeast Asia. Loggers, often acting illegally, also build roads to get into more and more remote forests, which lead to further deforestation. The roads and the logged areas turn into an attraction for farmers and ranchers who slash and burn the remaining forest completing the deforestation chain that started with road building (Lindsey 3). In other cases, forests that have been destroyed by logging become the most likely to catch fire and are eventually deforested by repeated accidental fires from neighboring farms or pastures.
Not all causes of deforestation are direct and obvious. Indirect or underlying causes of deforestation, for instance, poverty and unemployment, population growth, and overconsumption by consumers in developed countries, usually are combined. As population increases, natural resources such as forests, water and air, which are not endless, become scarce. More importantly, the rate of growth of low-income households
increases faster than that of high-income households, and poverty becomes more widespread (Stenberg 12-15). Unfortunately, these phenomena are related to the problem of deforestation. The poverty forces people to occupy forests to pursue subsistence agriculture. Moreover, as population increases, the demand for food and housing also increases. As a result, deforestation’s rate increases in order to satisfy people’s needs. Stenberg points out that “Countries experiencing deforestation at present times are less developed countries such as Brazil, Indonesia and the Philippines, plagued by overpopulation and extreme poverty” (12). On the other hand, the rate of deforestation increases in less developed countries not only to satisfy their demand of food or wood products, but also satisfy consumers’ needs in developed countries. Thus, overconsumption by developed countries increases deforestation in less developed countries, and this chain reaction goes on and on.
The rate of deforestation, at present times, continues to increase due to these direct and underlying causes, which are connected to each other and are causing irreversible changes to the environment, from extinction of biodiversity to global warming to climate change. “If this rate of deforestation continues, the world’s rainforests could completely vanish in the next 100 years, along with most of the world’s species of plants and animals,” reports NASA (qtd. in Mazhukhina). One of the major effects of deforestation is loss of habitat or home for millions of species. “Eighty percent of Earth’s land animals and plants live in forests, and many cannot survive the deforestation that destroys their homes,” adds National Geographic Society. In addition, the picture is more dramatic than it seems. Kolbert believes that tropical rainforest deforestation is one of the reasons that lead to the ongoing sixth, or Holocene, mass extinction (96-98). The ongoing sixth extinction can cause a great deal of diseases due to disruption of ecosystem. Furthermore, rainforests also produce 25 percent of the plants used to make modern medicine such as medicines used to treat leukemia and malaria (Mazhukhina), and the loss of these plants could be fatal for many human lives. Besides, some of the food people consume comes from tropical forests. In summary, deforestation has a huge negative impact not only on fauna and flora, but also on humans who rely on them.
Deforestation is one of the human factors of the enhancing global warming. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, deforestation is responsible for about 15 percent of all global warming emissions, greenhouse gases (Tropical Deforestation and Global Warming). Trees, like all plants, also have a crucial role in absorbing and accumulating the greenhouse gases and releasing oxygen during photosynthesis. The forests act as Earth’s lungs. Source
When trees are cut down and burned, their stored carbon is released into the air as a carbon dioxide. This brings rise in temperature, and the extreme hot summers lead to fires in the forests, and as a chain reaction, more carbon dioxide releases into air. Moreover, deforestation leads to climate changes not only by destroying the carbon cycle, but also the water cycle. Trees extract groundwater through their roots and release water vapor into the atmosphere, but without trees the cycle destroys and the result is a drier climate. Additionally, forest soils are moist because of the protection from sun-blocking tree cover. Without this cover, the soil quickly dries out and many former forest lands can quickly become worthless deserts (National Geographic).
Deforestation can lead to flash flooding. According to Forsyth and Walker, forests soils act as a “sponge”- absorbing and storing water during the wet season and releasing it slowly during the dry season (61). When it rains rapidly on dry soil with low absorption ability caused by deforestation, the runoff rainwater collects and forms huge water flow which can destroy nearby villages or cities. Finally, deforestation leads to soil loss or soil erosion. Tree roots anchor the soil. Without trees, the soil is free to wash or blow away, which can lead to mudslides and floods. For instance, in Nakhon Si Thammarat in southern Thailand in November 1988, forest clearing had caused disastrous flash flooding and mudslides, stating “430 people dead, over 1000 was missing, 958 injured, 600,000 affected. 435,000 houses, over 300 government offices including hospitals, 550 schools, and 139 temples were damaged. 300,000 ha of farmland destroyed and 137,000 animals dead,” reports United Nations Department of Humanitarian Affairs (Forsyth and Walker 63). This example shows the importance on forests and the important role that forests play in the water cycle.
Deforestation could be managed starting by governments to individual. Governments have power to regulate deforestation by banning illegal deforestation and by lengthening the size of reforestation and replantation. Governmental offices and corporations, who are huge consumers of paper, can minimize paper waste, for example, by using paper-free emails or soft-copies and encouraging their employees to recycle. Everyone as an individual can make a difference by recycling, using recycled products or just reducing the amount of paper consumption giving preference to paperless bills and online payments. Moreover, being smart in food choices can be helpful, too. Limiting consumption of red meat, which can decline cattle grazing, can help to lessen deforestation. Finally, purchasing renewable energy, such as solar or wind energy, instead of wood as fuel may help to stop deforestation.
Deforestation is a very serious cause of concern, and causes of deforestation vary from country to country. It is obvious that forests have irreplaceable role in human and animal lives. The increasing global warming and climate changes with all of its effects due to deforestation are endangering their lives. Only worldwide quick actions and solutions can stop deforestation.
Daniels, Justin A. Advances in Environmental Research. Nova Science Publishers, Inc, 2011.EBSCOhost,
chaffey.idm.oclc.org/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=nlebk&AN=435312&site=ehost-live. 18 Feb. 2017
Forsyth, Tim and Walker, Andrew. Forest Guardians, Forest Destroyers: The Politics of Environmental Knowledge in Northern Thailand. University of Washington Press, 2008. Culture, Place, and Nature. EBSCOhost, chaffey.idm.oclc.org/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=nlebk&AN=354259&site=ehost-live. 20 Feb. 2017
Kolbert, Elizabeth. The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History. Henry Holt and Company, 2014 eBook.
Lindsey, Rebecca. Tropical Deforestation. Feature Articles-NASA Earth Observatory. NASA. 30 March 2007 http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/Features/Deforestation/deforestation_update.php. 20 Feb. 2017
Mazhukhina, Karina. Why Deforestation Affects Everyone, Not Just Neighboring Communities. University of Washington, 9 Aug. 2016.
National Geographic Society. Deforestation and Its Effect on the Planet. http://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/global-warming/deforestation/. 20 Feb. 2017.
Stenberg, Luz Centeno and Siriwardana, Mahinda. A Computable General Equilibrium Model for Environmental Policy Analysis: The Case of Deforestation in the Philippines. Nova Science Publishers, Inc, 2009. EBSCOhost, chaffey.idm.oclc.org/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=nlebk&AN=333802&site=ehost-live. 20 Feb. 2017
Union of Concerned Scientists. Tropical Deforestation and Global Warming. 9 Dec.2013 http://www.ucsusa.org/global_warming/solutions/stop-deforestation/tropical-deforestation-and-1.html#.WLSgcfkrLIW. 24 Feb. 20017