Forests cover roughly around 30% of the world’s land area, but is decreasing each year. One major reason for this reduction is agriculture. Farmers are trying to keep up with the demands of the people and are persuaded to provide more room for planting crops or grazing livestock. Also, businesses such as logging operations, provide the world’s wood and paper products and cause for even further deforestation. Lastly, to accommodate expanding urbanization, forests are being cut down to develop the land for housing or businesses. Some deforestation is caused by natural factors such as wildfires and overgrazing but combining that with the human factors leads to an overwhelming rate.
Effects of Deforestation
According to National Geographic, one of the biggest impacts of deforestation is the loss of habitat for millions of species. ~80% of Earth’s land animals and plants live in forests, and many cannot survive or adapt to deforestation that destroys their homes.
Forests play a huge role in mitigating climate change because they act as a carbon sink and absorb up carbon dioxide that would otherwise be free in the air and contribute significantly to changes in climate patterns. It is estimated by World Wildlife that ~15% of all greenhouse gas emissions are a result of deforestation.
World Wildlife and National Geographic also state that deforestation is a particular concern in tropical rain forests because these forests are home to much of the world’s biodiversity. For example, in the Amazon, around 17% of the forest has been lost in the last 50 years, mostly due to forest conversion for cattle ranching. Deforestation in this region is particularly rampant near more populated areas, roads and rivers, but even remote areas have been starting to feel the effects of it where valuable mahogany, gold and oil are discovered.
Our water cycle can also be disrupted by deforestation. Forest soils are moist, but without protection from sun-blocking tree cover, they can dry out. Trees helps regulate the water cycle by returning water vapor to the atmosphere. Without these trees, many forests can become barren deserts.
One solution to deforestation is to manage forest resources by eliminating clear-cutting to ensure the forest environment remains intact. Cutting should be balanced between cutting older trees and planting young trees. Although there has been an increase of new tree planting, it is just a small fraction when compared to the amount of trees cut down each year.