What are the major causes of deforestation?
Deforestation is a consequence of over-exploitation of our natural ecosystems for space, energy and materials. The basic reasons for such extensive deforestation are:
(1) Expansion of Agriculture:
Expanding agriculture is one of the most important causes of deforestation. As demands on agricultural products rise more and more land is brought under cultivation for which forests are cleared, grass-lands ploughed, uneven grounds leveled, marshes drained and even land under water is reclaimed. However, this expansion is usually marked with more ecological destruction than rationality. Governments often distribute land under forests to landless people, instead of redistributing already established farm-lands, howsoever, wasteful, unequal and unjust the distribution of ownership of land may be.
During the process of clearing the land precious timber is simply burned. Ghana's 80% forests have disappeared but only 15% timber was harvested. Similarly in Brazil, little timber was extracted before the forests were burned for clearing the land.
Nothing is done to assess the fertility of the forest soil before clearing it for farming. In tropical regions of the world as much of the mineral material is lodged in the plant biomass, its removal takes away a large part of nutrients. The soil being poorer is unable to support farming for long durations. Once agriculture fails, the cleared land is put to use as cattle ranches which too is a hopeless business. The bared soil is subjected to massive erosion and degradation.
The Brazilian Government began the construction of Trans-Amazon Highway in 1970 in hope to colonize its largely empty Amazon basin which was covered with lush green tropical forests. But it was soon realized that apparent fertility of lush green jungle soil was an illusion. Crops after crops failed. Roads were washed away. Newly settled communities disintegrated and high hopes that the Amazon basin shall feed the hungry millions of the world were dashed (Skilling and Tcheyen 1979).
(2) Extension of Cultivation on Hill Slopes:
Outside humid tropical zone, in most of the third world countries, major forests often occur on hill tops and slopes. Though agriculture has nearly always been concentrated on plains and floors of valleys, farming on narrow flat steps cut one after another across the slope or terrace farming is an age-old practice. It has never been extensive because of the gruelling labour and low productivity.
However, the ever rising human numbers and their necessities have forced many to go up to mountain slopes for cultivation. More and more slopes are cleared of plants, steps carved out and against many odds cultivation is attempted. After a few crops the productivity declines and torrential sub-tropical rains carry down massive quantities of precious top soils to streams and rivers. While denuding hill slopes, the silt and sediments settle further down raising stream bottoms and river beds aggravating the flood situation.
(3) Shifting Cultivation:
Shifting cultivation or Jhum is often blamed for destruction of forests. In fact it is poor fertility of soil which has given rise to such a pattern of farming. A small patch of tropical forest is cleared, vegetation slashed, destroyed and burned. Crops are grown as long as the soil is productive, after which the cultivation is abandoned and cultivators move on to fresh patch of land.
The abandoned land was allowed to lay fallow for long periods during which regrowth of vegetation took place and natural ecosystem was restored. Shifting cultivators, therefore, worked in harmony with nature. However, the demands of growing population have shortened the fallow periods drastically. The soil is unable to regain its fertility before it is put to use again.
This causes degradation of soil and failure of crops after crops. In Indonesia large number of people who have migrated from Java and other crowded islands have turned to shifting cultivation. Farming is attempted on cleared patch of soil before it is able to regain fertility. As crops fail more and more land is cleared of forests to be put to similar over-exploitation. The overall result is that lush green forests are being gradually replaced by barren waste land (Eckholm, 1991).
The influx of shifting cultivators in water-shed around Panama Canal has caused extensive soil degradation resulting in large-scale erosion of the soil. Future utility of Panama Canal and the Panama City's water supply system are threatened by massive deposits of silt and sediments. The Government has launched massive programme of reforestation of the water-shed around Panama Canal (Lawrence; 1978).
(4) Cattle Ranching:
Large areas of tropical forests in Central and South America have been cleared for use as grazing land to raise catties and cash in on the lucrative beef exports to USA. But | in these cases too, the problem of poor productivity of tropical soils makes the venture non-viable The soil degenerates within a short span of time due to over-grazing and massive soil erosion occurs, Cattle ranching has done much damage to the tropical forest cover in South and central America (Fearnside 1980, Parson 1976)
(5) Firewood Collection:
To majority of rural population and a large number of people living in small towns and cities of developing countries, the only fuel is wood which is burned to cook food and to provide heat in chilly winters. Firewood collection contributes much to the depletion of tree cover, especially in localities which are lightly wooded. Denser forests usually produce a lot of combustible material in the form of dead twigs, leaves etc. There is hardly any need of cutting down live trees in densely wooded localities.
However, in the case of lightly wooded forests, where the pressure of demand is usually higher, a slow thinning of woodland occurs due to regular foraging of villagers. In Madhya Pradesh, India, a recent observation revealed that felling of small trees for use as firewood and timber exceeds fresh plant growth. In some places in the state, the Government! Allows people to collect head loads of dead wood from forests for personal use.
However, deadwood is actually manufactured, trees are axed, and their barks girdled and live trees become personal head loads to find their way to local markets. If the present trend continues, within twenty years, it is feared that half of the State which has the largest area under forests in India, will become treeless (Tomarand Joshi 1977).
Outright felling of live trees to meet firewood and charcoal requirement is common in lightly! wooded areas in many countries. In Upper Voltas, Sudan, Nigeria etc. well organized gangs exist which cut live trees in widening circles around towns and cities, illegally convert them into charcoal for sale in cities. In Sudan authorities have to use armed guards to protect live trees and armed clashes are common.
(6) Timber Harvesting:
Timber resource is an important asset for a country's prosperity. Commercial wood finds ready national as well as international markets. As a consequence of which natural forests are being mercilessly exploited. Logging or felling of forest trees for obtaining timber is an important cause of deforestation in third world countries.
Live trees with thick and straight trunks are felled and transported to commercial establishments elsewhere, to consumers who are ready to pay. In the process large stretches of forests are damaged and the system which could have provided resources worth much more to the local people is disrupted. Ironically the profits from timber trade are enjoyed by Governments, large companies or affluent contractors. Local people get a tiny share in the benefits while axing their own resource base.
Commercial logging in tropical countries usually involves felling of trees of only selected species which fetch better prices. This process of creaming or removing a few selected trees amidst dense vegetation on rather a delicate soil causes much more destruction than the actual number of trees or the volume of timber taken out would suggest.
In a study in Indonesia, it was found that the logging operations destroyed about 40% of the trees left behind. In many third world countries logging operations have been observed to lead to a permanent loss of forest cover. Loggers after removing a select group of trees move on to other areas. They are usually followed by others who move into the cut over area hoping to start farming and put down roots. The remaining vegetation is slashed and burned and agriculture is attempted. When cultivation fails it is replaced by cattle ranching or by useless tenacious grasses.
The selective harvesting practiced by loggers leave many forests permanently deficient in valuable plant species. Much of the West Africa has become useless for commercial logging as important plant species required by the loggers are not available. In Philippines, the valuable groups of tall trees (Dipterocarpus sp.) have shrunk from original 16 million hectares in 1960, to about one million hectares left standing in remote regions.
The practice of cutting down larger trees, of the selected species, leaving behind younger ones which can grow into fresh stock to be harvested later may appear rational. In theory such patch should become ready for reharvesting within thirty to forty years. However, in practice none of the loggers leaves the required number of younger trees and the notion that the woodland shall be ready for another valuable timber harvest in forty years appears to be a wistful thinking at its best.
In East Kalimantan, the seat of Indonesia's lucrative timber trade logging firms are required to leave behind 25 select crop trees per hectare but in practice none does so and the entire logged out area degenerates into a useless waste land. Of 17 million hectares of rich tropical forests, about 13 million hectares were marked for logging in 1978 by as many as 100 licensed companies. In Brazil also the select fell system which leaves behind younger plants for natural regeneration is being tried with an intensive replantation drive. However, if we look at the recent history of tropical forest exploitation, it appears that most of tropical timber is being harvested like a non-renewable resource (Johnson and Dykstra, 1978).
The cutting down of trees for lumber that is used for building materials, furniture, and paper products have a major impact on forest life. Forests are cleared to accommodate expanding urban areas. This results in loss of forest area and massive deforestation.
Forests are also cut down to clear land for growing crops, build farms, ranches and other food growing lands.
Forests are cut down in order create land for grazing cattle. Huge herds of animals require food and forests are cleared out to make way for grazing lands for these cattle.
Used for Fuel
Trees are cut down in developing countries to be used as firewood or turned into charcoal, which are used for cooking and heating purposes.
Some of the other causes are: clearing forests for oil and mining exploitation, to make highways and roads, slash and burn farming techniques, wildfires, and acid rain. Forest fires can occur naturally or in most cases are deliberate attempts by man to clear huge forests. Most of the time, these forests may recover, but usually the cleared land is used for construction and agriculture purposes. This leads to loss of forests and loss of habitat for the local wildlife.
Many government agencies are fighting illegal logging to protect the forests. However, any type of logging legal or illegal leads to deforestation. Trees are cut down indiscriminately by logging companies, to fulfill the demands of the wood market. This does not give a chance to the local wildlife and trees to regenerate and sustain themselves. Thus, leading to loss of wildlife forever.
What are the Effects of Deforestation?
There are a number of adverse effects, that include environmental and economical. Some of these effects are discussed below:
Erosion of Soil
When forest areas are cleared, it results in exposing the soil to the sun, making it very dry and eventually, infertile, due to volatile nutrients such as nitrogen being lost. In addition, when there is rainfall, it washes away the rest of the nutrients, which flow with the rainwater into waterways. Because of this, merely replanting trees may not help in solving the problems caused by deforestation, for by the time the trees mature, the soil will be totally devoid of essential nutrients. Ultimately, cultivation in this land will also become impossible, resulting in the land becoming useless. Large tracts of land will be rendered permanently impoverished due to soil erosion.
Disruption of the Water Cycle
Trees contribute in a large way in maintaining the water cycle. They draw up water via their roots, which is then released into the atmosphere. A large part of the water that circulates in the ecosystem of rainforests, for instance, remains inside the plants. When these trees are cut down it results in the climate getting drier in that area. The groundwater tables are affected and soon get depleted. The trees help in prevention of running off of water and help the soil absorb the flowing water. When there are no trees, water just runs off, leaving no chance for the groundwater tables to absorb more water. Thus, ultimately leading to reduction in water resources.
Loss of Biodiversity
The unique biodiversity of various geographical areas is being lost on a scale that is quite unprecedented. Even though tropical rainforest make up just 6 percent of the surface area of the Earth, about 80-90 percent of the entire species of the world exist here. Due to massive felling of trees, about 50 to 100 species of animals are being lost each day. The outcome of which is the extinction of animals and plants on a massive scale. The effects on animals is very heartbreaking. They not only lose their habitat and protective cover, they are pushed to extinction. Many beautiful creatures, both plants and animals have vanished from the face of the earth.
Flooding and Drought
One of the vital functions of forests is to absorb and store great amounts of water quickly when there are heavy rains. When forests are cut down, this regulation of the flow of water is disrupted, which leads to alternating periods of flood and then drought in the affected area. Thus, leading to disruption of human settlements and loss of life in thousands.
It is well-known that global warming is being caused largely due to emissions of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. However, what is not known quite as well is that deforestation has a direction association with carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere. Trees act as a major storage depot for carbon, since they absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, which is then used to produce carbohydrates, fats, and proteins that make up trees. When deforestation occurs, many of the trees are burnt or they are allowed to rot, which results in releasing the carbon that is stored in them as carbon dioxide. This, in turn, leads to greater concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
These are just a few of the causes and effects of deforestation. The consequences are very unpleasant as every form of life on earth is interlinked with one another. Not only do animals lose their homes, but humans dependent on the local ecology are also affected. The water cycle gets disturbed leading to floods and droughts. People dependent on the forests for their survival lose their livelihood. Global warming is another problem looming over our heads. The causes and its effects of this destructive practice can be stopped to some extent, if we all do our bit towards the environment. Reduce emissions by avoiding use of cars and bikes indiscriminately. Make our factories more cleaner and monitor their emissions. Develop better ways of farming that help increase the yield without having an impact on the neighboring forest areas. Forest management and strict monitoring of tree cutting should be carried out by various government and other nonprofit agencies. Reforestation of lost areas and following sustainable practices will help us balance our green cover. Remember, trees give us life, without them it will be impossible to sustain life.
The major causes for the depetion of forest are :-
1. We cut forests for timber (furniture), firewood (cooking purposes).
2. For rapidly growing population, to meet the requirements like places to live the mass (people)
3. As urbanisation is taking place the industries and factories are also being setup by vanishing/ clearing forests.
Deforestation or felling trees has become a favorite activity of man to extract assorted needs- be it medicines or precious paper to waste. For obvious reasons, it is shameful to read the statistics on how discriminating man has been, especially when it comes to deforestation… but at the end there is always hope. According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), an estimated 18 million acres (7.3 million hectares) of forest are lost each year. In the last two decades, Afghanistan has lost over 70% of its forests throughout the country. Read more facts about global warming, climate change and pollution here. Just check few of the facts on deforestation below.What is Deforestation?
Deforestation is the conversion of forested areas to non-forest land for use such as arable land, pasture, urban use, logged area, or wasteland. Deforestation can also be seen as removal of forests leading to several imbalances ecologically and environmentally and results in declines in habitat and biodiversity. Urbanization, Mining, Fires, Logging and Agricultural activities are few of the causes of deforestation.
Below are 51 facts on deforestation
Facts 1: Forests cover 30% of the earth’s land.
Facts 2: It is estimated that within 100 years there will be no rainforests.
Facts 3: Agriculture is the leading cause of deforestation
Facts 4: One and a half acres of forest is cut down every second.
Facts 5: Loss of forests contributes between 12 percent and 17 percent of annual globalgreenhouse gas emissions. (World Resources Institute)
Facts 6: If the current rate of deforestation continues, it will take less than 100 years to destroy all the rainforests on the earth.
Facts 7: The rate of deforestation equals to loss of 20 football fields every minute.
Facts 8: There are more than 121 natural remedies in the rain forest which can be used as medicines.
Facts 9: According to Rainforest Action Network, the United States has less than 5% of the world’s population yet consumes more than 30% of the world’s paper.
Facts 10: The over exploitation of forests is making it extremely difficult to replant a new ecology.
Facts 11: 20% of the world’s oxygen is produced in the Amazon forest.
Facts 12: Up to 28,000 species are expected to become extinct by the next quarter of the century due to deforestation.
Facts 13: 25% of cancers fighting organisms are found in the amazon.
Facts 14: 13 million hectare per year in South America and Africa and south East Asia is converted from a forest to an agriculture land.
Facts 15: Deforestation has considerably stopped in places like Europe, Pacific, North America and some parts of Asia due to lack of agricultural land.
Facts 16: Half of the world’s tropical forests has already been cleared.
Facts 17: 4500 acres of forests are cleared every hour by forest fires, bull dozers, machetes etc.
Facts 18: Poverty, over-population and unequal land access are the main causes of man- made deforestation.
Facts 19: The total world forest loss till date is 7.3 million hectares per year.
Facts 20: 1.6 billion people across the globe depend on forest products for their livelihoods there by adding more to deforestation.
Facts 21: Almost half of world’s timber and up to 70% of paper is consumed by Europe, United States and Japan alone.
Facts 22: Industrialized countries consume 12 times more wood and its products per person than the non-industrialized countries.
Facts 23: The United States has less than 5% of the world’s population but consumes more than 30% of the world’s paper.
Facts 24: Fuel wood in sub Saharan African countries is consumed up to 200% times more than the annual growth rates of the trees. This is causing deforestation, lack of timber resources and loss of habitat for the species living in it.
Facts 25: Trees are important constituents of the ecosystem by absorbing carbon.
Facts 26: Soil erosion, floods, wildlife extinction, increase in global warming, and climate imbalance are few of the effects of deforestation.
Facts 27: Worldwide more than 1.6 billion people rely on forests products for all or part of their livelihoods.
Facts 28: Tropical forests, where deforestation is most prevalent, hold more than 210 gigatonnes of carbon.
Facts 29: According to Forestry Department Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, about half the world’s tropical forests have been cleared or degraded.
Facts 30: Tropical rainforests which cover 6-7% of the earth’s surface, contain over half of all the plant and animal species in the world!
Facts 31: Deforestation affects water cycle. Trees absorb groundwater and release the same into the atmosphere during transpiration. When deforestation happens, the climate automatically changes to a drier one and also affects the water table.
Facts 32: The world’s forests store 283 billion tons of carbon present in the biomass.
The online business
Fact 33: Money to save trees is majorly collected online.
Fact 34: One can save up to 20 square feet of forest with online contributions thereby conveniently prevent deforestation.
Fact 35: Over 4 million tons of junk is created online by spamming.
Fact 36: 41 pounds of these junk mails are sent to almost every adult in the United States.
Fact 37: 44% of the junk mail goes unopened.
Fact 38: People in America spend more than 275 million dollars to dispose junk mails.
Fact 39: The paper industry is fourth largest in producing greenhouse gas thereby majorly contributing to deforestation.
Fact 40: On an average, a person in the United States uses more than 700 pounds of paper every year.
Take the right action
Fact 41: A lot of paper and cardboard is used unnecessarily for packing. This means more tree felling.
Fact 42: Re- use paper and plastic bags to discourage deforestation.
Fact 43: Use canvas or paper bags as another alternative.
Fact 44: Pick products which require less packaging.
Fact 45: Be creative and mail manufacturers telling them to use eco-friendly products. Show them your deforestation knowledge by highlighting certain important facts using statistics.
Fact 46: Sign effective petitions that work and help reduce deforestation.
Fact 47: Support eco-friendly companies buy buying their products that promise more durability in an inexpensive way.
Fact 48: Be active and plant trees- it can be at your homes, backyards or you can join any organization keen on stopping deforestation.
Fact 49: Reduce the consumption of beef to tone down the pressure to clear more forests for the cattle.
Fact 50: Boycott companies by supporting organizations that care about the environment at the cost of fighting back for the evergreen trees.
Fact 51: Seek knowledge on deforestation and how can you prevent it from happening by reading newspapers, magazines, internet, TV shows. Spread the word and make it go viral.
To fell or not to fell is not up to the woodcutter, but surely depends on you. Be the change and eliminate the disturbing statistics on deforestation. It takes not guts, but love and compassion for nature to save trees from being felled.like it only
1. Agricultural Activities: As earlier mentioned in the overview, agricultural activities are one of the major factors affecting deforestation. Due to overgrowing demand for food products, huge amount of tress are fell down to grow crops and for cattle gazing.
2. Logging: Apart from this, wood based industries like paper, match-sticks, furniture etc also need a substantial amount of wood supply. Wood is used as fuel both directly and indirectly, therefore trees are chopped for supplies. Firewood and charcoal are examples of wood being used as fuel. Some of these industries thrive on illegal wood cutting and felling of trees.
3. Urbanization: Further on order to gain access to these forests, the construction of roads are undertaken; here again trees are chopped to create roads. Overpopulation too directly affects forest covers, as with the expansion of cities more land is needed to establish housing and settlements. Therefore forest land is reclaimed.
4. Desertification of land: Some of the other factors that lead to deforestation are also part natural and part anthropogenic like Desertification of land. It occurs due to land abuse making it unfit for growth of trees. Many industries in petrochemicals release their waste into rivers which results in soil erosion and make it unfit to grow plants and trees.
5. Mining: Oil and coal mining require considerable amount of forest land. Apart from this, roads and highways have to be built to make way for trucks and other equipment. The waste that comes out from mining pollutes the environment and affects the nearby species.
6. Forest Fires: Another example would be forest blazes; Hundreds of trees are lost each year due to forest fires in various portions of the world. This happens due to extreme warm summers and milder winters. Fires, whether causes by man or nature results in huge loss of forest cover.