Author: Ioannes Salamanes
Editors: Shamsia Ahmed and Liane Xu
Artist: Abhinaya Vijayanand
Deforestation is the clearing of trees through accidental, deliberate, or natural means. It is defined by the United States Environmental Protection Agency as the “permanent removal of standing forests.” About 18 million acres of forest are lost each year, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). Deforestation can occur anywhere with densely populated trees, including the Amazon Rainforest in South America.
There are many causes of deforestation including overpopulation, agricultural activities, and illegal logging for materials. Deforestation has been happening for a long time, arguably since man switched from hunting to farming, but it has not become such a big issue until around 1950. Though some argue that nine-tenths of deforestation occurred before 1950, the rate of deforestation has greatly accelerated since, causing environments to become more sensitive and even irreversible damage.
The loss of trees causes harm not only to the environment itself, but it also affects animals including humans. Deforestation contributes to climate change and increases greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. It also causes flooding, soil erosion, and desertification which is the process of fertile land becoming desert. This means deforestation is leading to the loss of farmland, which causes hunger crises. In addition, deforestation poses many problems for indigenous people, including the loss of their homelands.
It is alarming that 70% of land plant and animal species live in forests. This means that much of our land species face the danger of extinction due to habitat loss as a result of deforestation. While it is a known fact that living things on Earth can adapt to their surroundings, it doesn’t mean that this can happen overnight. Deforestation is occurring too quickly which leads to the loss of many plants and animals (biodiversity loss). Biodiversity loss greatly affects ecosystems because each part of an ecosystem is interdependent on the other parts, and the loss of one species could have long-lasting consequences for other plants and animals. Wild forests, such as the Amazon, are beautiful and amazing places housing many different kinds of exotic plants and animals. So many new species are being discovered each year and the only way to protect them is to stop rampant deforestation.
The trees of the rainforest not only provide shelter for some animals, but they also regulate the temperature and the water cycle. In deforested areas, the temperature changes drastically from day to night, which could be fatal to some species. Additionally, less water in the air in deforested areas causes dry soil and the inability to grow crops. Indigenous communities who depend on the resources provided by rainforests that are being deforested are also being affected. Since we are part of a highly industrialized world, we will never truly understand how much deforestation has affected indigenous people and their ways of living.
Other effects of deforestation include coastal flooding and soil erosion. The roots of trees are what anchors soil in place. Without trees, soil washes away easily, which forces farmers to relocate. The barren land left behind is more prone to flooding, especially near coastal regions. Soil erosion can also cause disastrous mudslides, farming problems, and loss of electricity. Besides, if the soil gets into rivers and streams, waterways will be blocked leading to irrigation and hydroelectric structures getting damaged.
Deforestation also causes a negative feedback loop that contributes to global warming. The lack of trees also allows for greater amounts of greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, to be released into the atmosphere because deforested areas lose the ability to absorb such carbon dioxide. Greenhouse gases trap heat in the Earth’s atmosphere, which is what leads to climate change. Living trees serve as greenhouse gas filters, but when they are cut down, the carbon dioxide stored in their leaves will be released into the atmosphere, which contributes to the overall buildup of greenhouse gases. An estimated 30% of greenhouse gas emissions come from deforestation every year.
Ways that people can help counter deforestation include:
1. Planting a tree
2. Go paperless in the home and office.
3. Spreading awareness in the community.
a. This can be posting informational resources on social media or just you sitting
down with your family and talking about deforestation and its negative effects.
4. Be aware of what you are buying- try to buy only what you need.
a. You won’t be needing that 36 pack of colorful sticky notes.
b. Buy certified wood products that have a Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) mark.
c. Support companies that are committed to reducing deforestation.
5. Buy recycled products and recycle everything that can be recycled!
Even though someone may not personally be feeling the effects of deforestation or they aren’t immediately affected doesn’t mean it is correct to disregard it. In the long run, we can benefit from our environment if we try our best to preserve and protect the Earth’s natural resources.
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