If we’re not careful, the breathtaking presence and all the biodiversity that comes with a rainforest and other wooded lands will cease to exist. Species of animals yet discovered will vanish. Clean air, medicinal miracles, and a stable environment are all at risk. Any place possessing an abundance of trees faces the threat of disappearing forever, as an increasing worldwide population and majority of landowners and corporate giants continue to promote and execute the eradication of forested land â€“ despite the constant pleas of environmentalists.
What is Deforestation?
Deforestation involves the conversion of forested regions to non-forest land for the use of pastures for livestock, logging companies, industrial gain, urban use, or simply to become a wasteland . Sadly, the trend has been in existence for thousands upon thousands of years, as the ancient world saw most of the land covered in forests. As the population and demands on resources increases, so does the damage to Earth, which includes deforestation.
Starting around the mid-1800s, the destruction of forests on a worldwide basis experienced a significant increase. Acid rain attacked the forests in Europe and considerable stretches of land in Siberia were harvested after the fall of the Soviet Union. In recent years, we learn that Afghanistan no longer possesses more than 70% of its forests scattered about the country.
However, no other worldwide land source has been hit as hard as the tropical rainforests, where the rate of destruction is unimaginable. Nearly half of the mature tropical forests in the world (ranging between 750 and 800 million hectares of the original 1.5 to 1.6 billion hectares that previously decorated the planet) are gone . As humans are constantly in search for more ways to accommodate a rapidly growing population, they become the largest cause behind deforestation.
Examples of Deforestation
Tropical countries are the most common victims of deforestation, but also destinations like Indonesia, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, China, Liberia, Malaysia, Laos, and Ghana. All of the above have lost large amounts of their rainforest. Other examples include:
a) Philippine Archipelago:
90% of the country’s forests have been lost.
b) Central America:
Only 2/5 of the country’s original forest remains.
Madagascar is currently struggling to supply fresh water, food, and adequate sanitation for its rapidly increasing population. The country has lost 95% of its rainforests, which has led to soil loss, desertification, and degradation of water resources.
Between 1990 and 2005 â€“ 79% of Nigeria’s old-growth forests are no more â€“ a direct result of logging, subsistence agriculture, and the gathering of fuel wood.
In the past 50 years, 98% of the forested regions of the country are gone. 14% alone (the equivalent to 21,000 kmÂ²) were lost between 1990 and 2005.
The Brazilian government has reported in 2008 that a record rate of deforestation is taking place in the Amazon. The cause of deforestation in this country is also influenced by commodity prices, including recent developments in agriculture that has seen beef ranches and other crop farms move farther into the forest .
g) National Emergencies:
Several countries have deemed their deforestation a national emergency â€“ particularly Thailand, India, and the Philippines.
The Negative Effects of Deforestation
Prevention of deforestation is important for the stability of the environment and all living things, as the following negative effects are already causing serious irreversible damage throughout the world:
a) Irreversible Environmental Changes:
Sadly, some parts of the world have experienced detrimental consequences as a result of deforestation. For instance, they no longer are able to enjoy thriving biodiversity and must find ways to cope with continuous environmental changes. The majority of countries that have undergone massive deforestation are dealing with unforeseen transformations in climate and geography because the ability of forests to sustain a balance in climate changes is hindered. The outcome â€“ natural habitats and biodiversity shrinks by the minute.
b) Decline in Wood:
Deforestation causes a dramatic decline in the wood that satisfies industrial, fuel, and other human needs .
c) Living Conditions:
The overall quality of life declines when deforestation takes place â€“ especially in regions where degraded land is found.
d) Water Conditions:
Deforestation plays a role in the amount of water found in the soil, as well as the level of moisture in the atmosphere.
e) Medicinal Loss:
Researchers have uncovered the sources to a wealth of new drugs within forest biotopes located all over the world. With deforestation, the genetic variations (like crop resistance) that scientists would like to preserve are greatly threatened.
The loss of vital trees and plants affect the water cycle in many different ways, as the absence of litter, stems, and trunks of trees all play an important role. With less forest covering the land, the ability to ‘intercept, retain, and transport precipitation’ is affected. When precipitation is not trapped, surface water transport occurs at a faster rate. Possible outcomes include flash floods.
g) Increased Pollution:
You’ve heard of trees and the role they play in regards to our air. Trees serve as significant managers of organic carbon and forests possess the capacity to remove harmful pollutants from the air. Without trees working in our favor, increased pollution is allowed to take place.
h) Shrinking Beauty:
Forests are green visions of natural beauty that are valued for their cultural resource. Simply put â€“ they are ‘nice’ to look at and fun to explore during family vacations or adventure hikes. In some parts of the world, they provide great tourist attractions.
i) Financial Impact:
Although the wood found in forests is used to supply people with timber, wood fuel (for heating and cooking), and wood pulp (for paper) â€“ the long-term financial impact far outweighs the short-term gain. The use of forests for the creation of wood products or the conversion of forest to agriculture has actually developed financial woes, as both West Africa and Southeast Asia have suffered lower revenue due to a decrease in timber harvests. Also â€“ illegal logging comes with a price each year that can cost national economies billons of dollars to compensate.
How to Prevent Deforestation
You donâ€™t have to live in the middle of a rainforest to do your part in preventing deforestation. Below are a few suggestions to consider when you are interested in preserving the amount of forests located in the rest of the world, as well as right in your own backyard:
a) Use Recycled Items:
Today, a consumer can purchase a variety of recycled items, including notebook paper, books, toilet paper, and shopping bags. When people use recycled products and make a conscious effort not to waste, the demand for new raw material to replace these items can decrease.
b) Tree Care:
When cutting down trees â€“ single out full-grown specimens and spare younger varieties. In the event that you must remove a tree for a legitimate reason (for safety issues or power line interference), make sure that for every tree lost â€“ another is planted in its place.
c) Farming Practices:
Those who plant crops at a farm can participate in putting a dent in deforestation by rotating crops. It is suggested to replace the habit of using different portions of land each year with using the same portion of land to plant different crops. This practice has proven effective in maintaining soil fertility. Farmers may also embrace many other options, such as high-yield hybrid crops and hydroponics, which relies on a method of growing plants using mineral nutrient solutions instead of soil.
d) Cut Back on Palm Oil:
In Malaysia and Indonesia, an increasing amount of trees are cut down in order to generate the palm oil used in the production of some breads, chocolates, and shampoos. As a result, the native orangutans are losing their habitat. You can spread awareness and limit your consumption of products containing this type of oil.
As the chill of winter takes over the autumn season, try using coals instead of firewood in your fireplace. While it only takes a couple of hours to consume a few logs here and there, keep in mind that it takes years for one tree to fully grow.
Take a page from the People’s Republic of China, where the government has in the past set a requirement that every able-bodied citizen between the ages of 11 and 60 is responsible for planting three to five trees per year or complete an equal amount of work in other areas of forestry. Since 1982, the government claims that at least one billion trees have been planted in China as a result of the program.
g) Become an Advocate:
Become an advocate of reforestation. Learn how you can spread the word. For instance, a middle school in Washington took to the streets asking people for just one penny. They explained that the money would go towards purchasing acres of Amazonian rainforest. If successful, this move ensures that no deforestation can take place on the bought land. The effort was twofold â€“ spreading information and collecting money for a good cause.
h) Arbor Day Foundation’s Rain Forest Rescue :
Support programs, such as this Arbor Day Foundation gem, which assists in the prevention of deforestation. Donated money is used to purchase and preserve rainforest space before lumber companies can get a hold of the land. As a result, the Arbor Day Foundation is able to protect the land from deforestation.
i) Support Conservation Organizations:
Lend your support through donations of your time, money, or actions to organizations that run programs concentrating on the preservation of forest habitats, such as Greenpeace, World Wide Fund for Nature, Community Forestry International, and Conservation International.
 Ron Nielsen, The Little Green Handbook: Seven Trends Shaping the Future of Our Planet, Picador, New York (2006)