Afforestation Deforestation Essay Outline

For the computer science term, see Deforestation (computer science).

"Deforest" redirects here. For other uses, see DeForest (disambiguation).

Deforestation, clearance, or clearing is the removal of a forest or stand of trees where the land is thereafter converted to a non-forest use.[2] Examples of deforestation include conversion of forestland to farms, ranches, or urban use. The most concentrated deforestation occurs in tropical rainforests.[3] About 30 percent of Earth's land surface is covered by forests.[4]

Deforestation occurs for multiple reasons: trees are cut down to be used for building or sold as fuel (sometimes in the form of charcoal or timber), while cleared land is used as pasture for livestock and plantation. The removal of trees without sufficient reforestation has resulted in habitat damage, biodiversity loss, and aridity. It has adverse impacts on biosequestration of atmospheric carbon dioxide. Deforestation has also been used in war to deprive the enemy of vital resources and cover for its forces. Modern examples of this were the use of Agent Orange by the British military in Malaya during the Malayan Emergency and the United States military in Vietnam during the Vietnam War. As of 2005, net deforestation rates have ceased to increase in countries with a per capita GDP of at least US$4,600.[5][6] Deforested regions typically incur significant adverse soil erosion and frequently degrade into wasteland.

Disregard of ascribed value, lax forest management, and deficient environmental laws are some of the factors that allow deforestation to occur on a large scale. In many countries, deforestation–both naturally occurring and human-induced–is an ongoing issue.[7] Deforestation causes extinction, changes to climatic conditions, desertification, and displacement of populations as observed by current conditions and in the past through the fossil record.[8] More than half of all plant and land animal species in the world live in tropical forests.[9]

Between 2000 and 2012, 2.3 million square kilometres (890,000 sq mi) of forests around the world were cut down.[10] As a result of deforestation, only 6.2 million square kilometres (2.4 million square miles) remain of the original 16 million square kilometres (6 million square miles) of forest that formerly covered the Earth.[10] An area the size of a soccer football pitch is cleared from the Amazon rainforest every minute, with 136 million acres (55 million hectares) of rainforest cleared for animal agriculture overall.[11]

Causes[edit]

According to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) secretariat, the overwhelming direct cause of deforestation is agriculture. Subsistence farming is responsible for 48% of deforestation; commercial agriculture is responsible for 32%; logging is responsible for 14%, and fuel wood removals make up 5%.[12]

Experts do not agree on whether industrial logging is an important contributor to global deforestation.[13][14] Some argue that poor people are more likely to clear forest because they have no alternatives, others that the poor lack the ability to pay for the materials and labour needed to clear forest.[13] One study found that population increases due to high fertility rates were a primary driver of tropical deforestation in only 8% of cases.[15]

Other causes of contemporary deforestation may include corruption of government institutions,[16][17] the inequitable distribution of wealth and power,[18]population growth[19] and overpopulation,[20][21] and urbanization.[22]Globalization is often viewed as another root cause of deforestation,[23][24] though there are cases in which the impacts of globalization (new flows of labor, capital, commodities, and ideas) have promoted localized forest recovery.[25]

In 2000 the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) found that "the role of population dynamics in a local setting may vary from decisive to negligible," and that deforestation can result from "a combination of population pressure and stagnating economic, social and technological conditions."[19]

The degradation of forest ecosystems has also been traced to economic incentives that make forest conversion appear more profitable than forest conservation.[26] Many important forest functions have no markets, and hence, no economic value that is readily apparent to the forests' owners or the communities that rely on forests for their well-being.[26] From the perspective of the developing world, the benefits of forest as carbon sinks or biodiversity reserves go primarily to richer developed nations and there is insufficient compensation for these services. Developing countries feel that some countries in the developed world, such as the United States of America, cut down their forests centuries ago and benefited economically from this deforestation, and that it is hypocritical to deny developing countries the same opportunities, i.e. that the poor shouldn't have to bear the cost of preservation when the rich created the problem.[27]

Some commentators have noted a shift in the drivers of deforestation over the past 30 years.[28] Whereas deforestation was primarily driven by subsistence activities and government-sponsored development projects like transmigration in countries like Indonesia and colonization in Latin America, India, Java, and so on, during the late 19th century and the earlier half of the 20th century, by the 1990s the majority of deforestation was caused by industrial factors, including extractive industries, large-scale cattle ranching, and extensive agriculture.[29]

Environmental effects[edit]

Atmospheric[edit]

Further information: Deforestation and climate change

Deforestation is ongoing and is shaping climate and geography.[30][31][32][33]

Deforestation is a contributor to global warming,[34][35] and is often cited as one of the major causes of the enhanced greenhouse effect. Tropical deforestation is responsible for approximately 20% of world greenhouse gas emissions.[36] According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change deforestation, mainly in tropical areas, could account for up to one-third of total anthropogeniccarbon dioxide emissions.[37] But recent calculations suggest that carbon dioxide emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (excluding peatland emissions) contribute about 12% of total anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions with a range from 6 to 17%.[38] Deforestation causes carbon dioxide to linger in the atmosphere. As carbon dioxide accrues, it produces a layer in the atmosphere that traps radiation from the sun. The radiation converts to heat which causes global warming, which is better known as the greenhouse effect.[39] Plants remove carbon in the form of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere during the process of photosynthesis, but release some carbon dioxide back into the atmosphere during normal respiration. Only when actively growing can a tree or forest remove carbon, by storing it in plant tissues. Both the decay and burning of wood releases much of this stored carbon back to the atmosphere. In order for forests effectively to take up carbon, there must be a net accumulation of wood. One way is for the wood to be harvested and turned into long-lived products, with new young trees replacing them.[40] Deforestation may also cause carbon stores held in soil to be released. Forests can be either sinks or sources depending upon environmental circumstances. Mature forests alternate between being net sinks and net sources of carbon dioxide (see carbon dioxide sink and carbon cycle).

In deforested areas, the land heats up faster and reaches a higher temperature, leading to localized upward motions that enhance the formation of clouds and ultimately produce more rainfall.[41] However, according to the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory, the models used to investigate remote responses to tropical deforestation showed a broad but mild temperature increase all through the tropical atmosphere. The model predicted <0.2 °C warming for upper air at 700 mb and 500 mb. However, the model shows no significant changes in other areas besides the Tropics. Though the model showed no significant changes to the climate in areas other than the Tropics, this may not be the case since the model has possible errors and the results are never absolutely definite.[42] Deforestation affects wind flows, water vapour flows and absorption of solar energy thus clearly influencing local and global climate.[43]

Reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD) in developing countries has emerged as a new potential to complement ongoing climate policies. The idea consists in providing financial compensations for the reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from deforestation and forest degradation".[44]

Rainforests are widely believed by laymen to contribute a significant amount of the world's oxygen,[45] although it is now accepted by scientists that rainforests contribute little net oxygen to the atmosphere and deforestation has only a minor effect on atmospheric oxygen levels.[46][47] However, the incineration and burning of forest plants to clear land releases large amounts of CO2, which contributes to global warming.[35] Scientists also state that tropical deforestation releases 1.5 billion tons of carbon each year into the atmosphere.[48]

Hydrological[edit]

The water cycle is also affected by deforestation. Trees extract groundwater through their roots and release it into the atmosphere. When part of a forest is removed, the trees no longer transpire this water, resulting in a much drier climate. Deforestation reduces the content of water in the soil and groundwater as well as atmospheric moisture. The dry soil leads to lower water intake for the trees to extract.[49] Deforestation reduces soil cohesion, so that erosion, flooding and landslides ensue.[50][51]

Shrinking forest cover lessens the landscape's capacity to intercept, retain and transpire precipitation. Instead of trapping precipitation, which then percolates to groundwater systems, deforested areas become sources of surface water runoff, which moves much faster than subsurface flows. Forests return most of the water that falls as precipitation to the atmosphere by transpiration. In contrast, when an area is deforested, almost all precipitation is lost as run-off.[52] That quicker transport of surface water can translate into flash flooding and more localized floods than would occur with the forest cover. Deforestation also contributes to decreased evapotranspiration, which lessens atmospheric moisture which in some cases affects precipitation levels downwind from the deforested area, as water is not recycled to downwind forests, but is lost in runoff and returns directly to the oceans. According to one study, in deforested north and northwest China, the average annual precipitation decreased by one third between the 1950s and the 1980s.[53]

Trees, and plants in general, affect the water cycle significantly:[54]

  • their canopies intercept a proportion of precipitation, which is then evaporated back to the atmosphere (canopy interception);
  • their litter, stems and trunks slow down surface runoff;
  • their roots create macropores – large conduits – in the soil that increase infiltration of water;
  • they contribute to terrestrial evaporation and reduce soil moisture via transpiration;
  • their litter and other organic residue change soil properties that affect the capacity of soil to store water.
  • their leaves control the humidity of the atmosphere by transpiring. 99% of the water absorbed by the roots moves up to the leaves and is transpired.[55]

As a result, the presence or absence of trees can change the quantity of water on the surface, in the soil or groundwater, or in the atmosphere. This in turn changes erosion rates and the availability of water for either ecosystem functions or human services. Deforestation on lowland plains moves cloud formation and rainfall to higher elevations.[43]

The forest may have little impact on flooding in the case of large rainfall events, which overwhelm the storage capacity of forest soil if the soils are at or close to saturation.

Tropical rainforests produce about 30% of our planet's fresh water.[45]

Deforestation disrupts normal weather patterns creating hotter and drier weather thus increasing drought, desertification, crop failures, melting of the polar ice caps, coastal flooding and displacement of major vegetation regimes.[43]

Soil[edit]

Due to surface plant litter, forests that are undisturbed have a minimal rate of erosion. The rate of erosion occurs from deforestation, because it decreases the amount of litter cover, which provides protection from surface runoff.[56] The rate of erosion is around 2 metric tons per square kilometre.[57] This can be an advantage in excessively leached tropical rain forest soils. Forestry operations themselves also increase erosion through the development of (forest) roads and the use of mechanized equipment.

Deforestation in China's Loess Plateau many years ago has led to soil erosion; this erosion has led to valleys opening up. The increase of soil in the runoff causes the Yellow River to flood and makes it yellow colored.[57]

Greater erosion is not always a consequence of deforestation, as observed in the southwestern regions of the US. In these areas, the loss of grass due to the presence of trees and other shrubbery leads to more erosion than when trees are removed.[57]

Soils are reinforced by the presence of trees, which secure the soil by binding their roots to soil bedrock. Due to deforestation, the removal of trees causes sloped lands to be more susceptible to landslides.[54]

Biodiversity[edit]

Deforestation on a human scale results in decline in biodiversity,[58] and on a natural global scale is known to cause the extinction of many species.[8] The removal or destruction of areas of forest cover has resulted in a degraded environment with reduced biodiversity.[21] Forests support biodiversity, providing habitat for wildlife;[59] moreover, forests foster medicinal conservation.[60] With forest biotopes being irreplaceable source of new drugs (such as taxol), deforestation can destroy genetic variations (such as crop resistance) irretrievably.[61]

Since the tropical rainforests are the most diverse ecosystems on Earth[62][63] and about 80% of the world's known biodiversity could be found in tropical rainforests,[64][65] removal or destruction of significant areas of forest cover has resulted in a degraded[66] environment with reduced biodiversity.[8][67] A study in Rondônia, Brazil, has shown that deforestation also removes the microbial community which is involved in the recycling of nutrients, the production of clean water and the removal of pollutants.[68]

It has been estimated that we are losing 137 plant, animal and insect species every single day due to rainforest deforestation, which equates to 50,000 species a year.[69] Others state that tropical rainforest deforestation is contributing to the ongoing Holocene mass extinction.[70][71] The known extinction rates from deforestation rates are very low, approximately 1 species per year from mammals and birds which extrapolates to approximately 23,000 species per year for all species. Predictions have been made that more than 40% of the animal and plant species in Southeast Asia could be wiped out in the 21st century.[72] Such predictions were called into question by 1995 data that show that within regions of Southeast Asia much of the original forest has been converted to monospecific plantations, but that potentially endangered species are few and tree flora remains widespread and stable.[73]

Scientific understanding of the process of extinction is insufficient to accurately make predictions about the impact of deforestation on biodiversity.[74] Most predictions of forestry related biodiversity loss are based on species-area models, with an underlying assumption that as the forest declines species diversity will decline similarly.[75] However, many such models have been proven to be wrong and loss of habitat does not necessarily lead to large scale loss of species.[75] Species-area models are known to overpredict the number of species known to be threatened in areas where actual deforestation is ongoing, and greatly overpredict the number of threatened species that are widespread.[73]

A recent study of the Brazilian Amazon predicts that despite a lack of extinctions thus far, up to 90 percent of predicted extinctions will finally occur in the next 40 years.[76]

Economic impact[edit]

Damage to forests and other aspects of nature could halve living standards for the world's poor and reduce global GDP by about 7% by 2050, a report concluded at the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) meeting in Bonn in 2008.[77] Historically, utilization of forest products, including timber and fuel wood, has played a key role in human societies, comparable to the roles of water and cultivable land. Today, developed countries continue to utilize timber for building houses, and wood pulp for paper. In developing countries almost three billion people rely on wood for heating and cooking.[78]

The forest products industry is a large part of the economy in both developed and developing countries. Short-term economic gains made by conversion of forest to agriculture, or over-exploitation of wood products, typically leads to loss of long-term income and long-term biological productivity. West Africa, Madagascar, Southeast Asia and many other regions have experienced lower revenue because of declining timber harvests. Illegal logging causes billions of dollars of losses to national economies annually.[79]

The new procedures to get amounts of wood are causing more harm to the economy and overpower the amount of money spent by people employed in logging.[80] According to a study, "in most areas studied, the various ventures that prompted deforestation rarely generated more than US$5 for every ton of carbon they released and frequently returned far less than US$1". The price on the European market for an offset tied to a one-ton reduction in carbon is 23 euro (about US$35).[81]

Rapidly growing economies also have an effect on deforestation. Most pressure will come from the world's developing countries, which have the fastest-growing populations and most rapid economic (industrial) growth.[82] In 1995, economic growth in developing countries reached nearly 6%, compared with the 2% growth rate for developed countries.”[82] As our human population grows, new homes, communities, and expansions of cities will occur. Connecting all of the new expansions will be roads, a very important part in our daily life. Rural roads promote economic development but also facilitate deforestation.[82] About 90% of the deforestation has occurred within 100 km of roads in most parts of the Amazon.[83]

The European Union is one of the largest importer of products made from illegal deforestation.[84]

Forest transition theory[edit]

The forest area change may follow a pattern suggested by the forest transition (FT) theory,[86] whereby at early stages in its development a country is characterized by high forest cover and low deforestation rates (HFLD countries).[29]

Then deforestation rates accelerate (HFHD, high forest cover – high deforestation rate), and forest cover is reduced (LFHD, low forest cover – high deforestation rate), before the deforestation rate slows (LFLD, low forest cover – low deforestation rate), after which forest cover stabilizes and eventually starts recovering. FT is not a “law of nature,” and the pattern is influenced by national context (for example, human population density, stage of development, structure of the economy), global economic forces, and government policies. A country may reach very low levels of forest cover before it stabilizes, or it might through good policies be able to “bridge” the forest transition.[87]

FT depicts a broad trend, and an extrapolation of historical rates therefore tends to underestimate future BAU deforestation for counties at the early stages in the transition (HFLD), while it tends to overestimate BAU deforestation for countries at the later stages (LFHD and LFLD).

Countries with high forest cover can be expected to be at early stages of the FT. GDP per capita captures the stage in a country’s economic development, which is linked to the pattern of natural resource use, including forests. The choice of forest cover and GDP per capita also fits well with the two key scenarios in the FT:

(i) a forest scarcity path, where forest scarcity triggers forces (for example, higher prices of forest products) that lead to forest cover stabilization; and

(ii) an economic development path, where new and better off-farm employment opportunities associated with economic growth (= increasing GDP per capita) reduce profitability of frontier agriculture and slows deforestation.[29]

Historical causes[edit]

Further information: Timeline of environmental history

Prehistory[edit]

The Carboniferous Rainforest Collapse[8] was an event that occurred 300 million years ago. Climate change devastated tropical rainforests causing the extinction of many plant and animal species. The change was abrupt, specifically, at this time climate became cooler and drier, conditions that are not favourable to the growth of rainforests and much of the biodiversity within them. Rainforests were fragmented forming shrinking 'islands' further and further apart. Populations such as the sub class Lissamphibia were devastated, whereas Reptilia survived the collapse. The surviving organisms were better adapted to the drier environment left behind and served as legacies in succession after the collapse.[7]

Rainforests once covered 14% of the earth's land surface; now they cover a mere 6% and experts estimate that the last remaining rainforests could be consumed in less than 40 years.[88] Small scale deforestation was practiced by some societies for tens of thousands of years before the beginnings of civilization.[89] The first evidence of deforestation appears in the Mesolithic period.[90] It was probably used to convert closed forests into more open ecosystems favourable to game animals.[89] With the advent of agriculture, larger areas began to be deforested, and fire became the prime tool to clear land for crops. In Europe there is little solid evidence before 7000 BC. Mesolithic foragers used fire to create openings for red deer and wild boar. In Great Britain, shade-tolerant species such as oak and ash are replaced in the pollen record by hazels, brambles, grasses and nettles. Removal of the forests led to decreased transpiration, resulting in the formation of upland peat bogs. Widespread decrease in elmpollen across Europe between 8400–8300 BC and 7200–7000 BC, starting in southern Europe and gradually moving north to Great Britain, may represent land clearing by fire at the onset of Neolithic agriculture.

The Neolithic period saw extensive deforestation for farming land.[91][92] Stone axes were being made from about 3000 BC not just from flint, but from a wide variety of hard rocks from across Britain and North America as well. They include the noted Langdale axe industry in the English Lake District, quarries developed at Penmaenmawr in North Wales and numerous other locations. Rough-outs were made locally near the quarries, and some were polished locally to give a fine finish. This step not only increased the mechanical strength of the axe, but also made penetration of wood easier. Flint was still used from sources such as Grimes Graves but from many other mines across Europe.

Evidence of deforestation has been found in MinoanCrete; for example the environs of the Palace of Knossos were severely deforested in the Bronze Age.[93]

Pre-industrial history[edit]

Throughout prehistory, humans were hunter gatherers who hunted within forests. In most areas, such as the Amazon, the tropics, Central America, and the Caribbean,[95] only after shortages of wood and other forest products occur are policies implemented to ensure forest resources are used in a sustainable manner.

In ancient Greece, Tjeered van Andel and co-writers[96] summarized three regional studies of historic erosion and alluviation and found that, wherever adequate evidence exists, a major phase of erosion follows, by about 500-1,000 years the introduction of farming in the various regions of Greece, ranging from the later Neolithic to the Early Bronze Age. The thousand years following the mid-first millennium BC saw serious, intermittent pulses of soil erosion in numerous places. The historic silting of ports along the southern coasts of Asia Minor (e.g.Clarus, and the examples of Ephesus, Priene and Miletus, where harbors had to be abandoned because of the silt deposited by the Meander) and in coastal Syria during the last centuries BC.

Easter Island has suffered from heavy soil erosion in recent centuries, aggravated by agriculture and deforestation.[97]Jared Diamond gives an extensive look into the collapse of the ancient Easter Islanders in his book Collapse. The disappearance of the island's trees seems to coincide with a decline of its civilization around the 17th and 18th century. He attributed the collapse to deforestation and over-exploitation of all resources.[98][99]

The famous silting up of the harbor for Bruges, which moved port commerce to Antwerp, also followed a period of increased settlement growth (and apparently of deforestation) in the upper river basins. In early medieval Riez in upper Provence, alluvial silt from two small rivers raised the riverbeds and widened the floodplain, which slowly buried the Roman settlement in alluvium and gradually moved new construction to higher ground; concurrently the headwater valleys above Riez were being opened to pasturage.[100]

A typical progress trap was that cities were often built in a forested area, which would provide wood for some industry (for example, construction, shipbuilding, pottery). When deforestation occurs without proper replanting, however; local wood supplies become difficult to obtain near enough to remain competitive, leading to the city's abandonment, as happened repeatedly in Ancient Asia Minor. Because of fuel needs, mining and metallurgy often led to deforestation and city abandonment.[101]

With most of the population remaining active in (or indirectly dependent on) the agricultural sector, the main pressure in most areas remained land clearing for crop and cattle farming. Enough wild green was usually left standing (and partially used, for example, to collect firewood, timber and fruits, or to graze pigs) for wildlife to remain viable. The elite's (nobility and higher clergy) protection of their own hunting privileges and game often protected significant woodland.[87]

Major parts in the spread (and thus more durable growth) of the population were played by monastical 'pioneering' (especially by the Benedictine and Commercial orders) and some feudal lords' recruiting farmers to settle (and become tax payers) by offering relatively good legal and fiscal conditions. Even when speculators sought to encourage towns, settlers needed an agricultural belt around or sometimes within defensive walls. When populations were quickly decreased by causes such as the Black Death or devastating warfare (for example, Genghis Khan's Mongol hordes in eastern and central Europe, Thirty Years' War in Germany), this could lead to settlements being abandoned. The land was reclaimed by nature, but the secondary forests usually lacked the original biodiversity.

From 1100 to 1500 AD, significant deforestation took place in Western Europe as a result of the expanding human population. The large-scale building of wooden sailing ships by European (coastal) naval owners since the 15th century for exploration, colonisation, slave trade–and other trade on the high seas consumed many forest resources. Piracy also contributed to the over harvesting of forests, as in Spain. This led to a weakening of the domestic economy after Columbus' discovery of America, as the economy became dependent on colonial activities (plundering, mining, cattle, plantations, trade, etc.)[102]

In Changes In the Land (1983), William Cronon analyzed and documented 17th-century English colonists' reports of increased seasonal flooding in New England during the period when new settlers initially cleared the forests for agriculture. They believed flooding was linked to widespread forest clearing upstream.

The massive use of charcoal on an industrial scale in Early Modern Europe was a new type of consumption of western forests; even in Stuart England, the relatively primitive production of charcoal has already reached an impressive level. Stuart England was so widely deforested that it depended on the Baltic trade for ship timbers, and looked to the untapped forests of New England to supply the need. Each of Nelson's Royal Navy war ships at Trafalgar (1805) required 6,000 mature oaks for its construction. In France, Colbert planted oak forests to supply the French navy in the future. When the oak plantations matured in the mid-19th century, the masts were no longer required because shipping had changed.

Norman F. Cantor's summary of the effects of late medieval deforestation applies equally well to Early Modern Europe:[103]

Europeans had lived in the midst of vast forests throughout the earlier medieval centuries. After 1250 they became so skilled at deforestation that by 1500 they were running short of wood for heating and cooking. They were faced with a nutritional decline because of the elimination of the generous supply of wild game that had inhabited the now-disappearing forests, which throughout medieval times had provided the staple of their carnivorous high-protein diet. By 1500 Europe was on the edge of a fuel and nutritional disaster [from] which it was saved in the sixteenth century only by the burning of soft coal and the cultivation of potatoes and maize.

Industrial era[edit]

In the 19th century, introduction of steamboats in the United States was the cause of deforestation of banks of major rivers, such as the Mississippi River, with increased and more severe flooding one of the environmental results. The steamboat crews cut wood every day from the riverbanks to fuel the steam engines. Between St. Louis and the confluence with the Ohio River to the south, the Mississippi became more wide and shallow, and changed its channel laterally. Attempts to improve navigation by the use of snag pullers often resulted in crews' clearing large trees 100 to 200 feet (61 m) back from the banks. Several French colonial towns of the Illinois Country, such as Kaskaskia, Cahokia and St. Philippe, Illinois were flooded and abandoned in the late 19th century, with a loss to the cultural record of their archeology.[104]

The wholescale clearance of woodland to create agricultural land can be seen in many parts of the world, such as the Central forest-grasslands transition and other areas of the Great Plains of the United States. Specific parallels are seen in the 20th-century deforestation occurring in many developing nations.

Rates of deforestation[edit]

Global deforestation[105] sharply accelerated around 1852.[106][107] It has been estimated that about half of the Earth's mature tropical forests—between 7.5 million and 8 million km2 (2.9 million to 3 million sq mi) of the original 15 million to 16 million km2 (5.8 million to 6.2 million sq mi) that until 1947 covered the planet[108]—have now been destroyed.[9][109] Some scientists have predicted that unless significant measures (such as seeking out and protecting old growth forests that have not been disturbed)[108] are taken on a worldwide basis, by 2030 there will only be 10% remaining,[106][109] with another 10% in a degraded condition.[106] 80% will have been lost, and with them hundreds of thousands of irreplaceable species.[106] Some cartographers have attempted to illustrate the sheer scale of deforestation by country using a cartogram.[110]

Estimates vary widely as to the extent of tropical deforestation.[111][112] Over a 50-year period, percentage of land cover by tropical rainforests has decreased by 50%. Where total land coverage by tropical rainforests decreased from 14% to 6%. A large contribution to this loss can be identified between 1960 and 1990, when 20% of all tropical rainforests were destroyed. At this rate, extinction of such forests is projected to occur by the mid 21st century.[7]

A 2002 analysis of satellite imagery suggested that the rate of deforestation in the humid tropics (approximately 5.8 million hectares per year) was roughly 23% lower than the most commonly quoted rates.[113] Conversely, a newer analysis of satellite images reveals that deforestation of the Amazon rainforest is twice as fast as scientists previously estimated.[114][115]

Some have argued that deforestation trends may follow a Kuznets curve,[116] which if true would nonetheless fail to eliminate the risk of irreversible loss of non-economic forest values (for example, the extinction of species).[117][118]

A 2005 report by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimated that although the Earth's total forest area continued to decrease at about 13 million hectares per year, the global rate of deforestation has recently been slowing.[119][120] The 2016 report by the FAO[121] reports from 2010 to 2015 there was a worldwide decrease in forest area of 3.3 million ha per year. During this five-year period, the biggest forest area loss occurred in the tropics, particularly in South America and Africa. Per capita forest area decline was also greatest in the tropics and subtropics but is occurring in every climatic domain (except in the temperate) as populations increase.

Others claim that rainforests are being destroyed at an ever-quickening pace.[122] The London-based Rainforest Foundation notes that "the UN figure is based on a definition of forest as being an area with as little as 10% actual tree cover, which would therefore include areas that are actually savannah-like ecosystems and badly damaged forests."[123] Other critics of the FAO data point out that they do not distinguish between forest types,[124] and that they are based largely on reporting from forestry departments of individual countries,[125] which do not take into account unofficial activities like illegal logging.[126]

Despite these uncertainties, there is agreement that destruction of rainforests remains a significant environmental problem. Up to 90% of West Africa's coastal rainforests have disappeared since 1900.[127] In South Asia, about 88% of the rainforests have been lost.[128] Much of what remains of the world's rainforests is in the Amazon basin, where the Amazon Rainforest covers approximately 4 million square kilometres.[129] The regions with the highest tropical deforestation rate between 2000 and 2005 were Central America—which lost 1.3% of its forests each year—and tropical Asia.[123] In Central America, two-thirds of lowland tropical forests have been turned into pasture since 1950 and 40% of all the rainforests have been lost in the last 40 years.[130]Brazil has lost 90–95% of its Mata Atlântica forest.[131]Paraguay was losing its natural semi humid forests in the country’s western regions at a rate of 15.000 hectares at a randomly studied 2-month period in 2010,[132] Paraguay’s parliament refused in 2009 to pass a law that would have stopped cutting of natural forests altogether.[133]

Madagascar has lost 90% of its eastern rainforests.[134][135] As of 2007, less than 50% of Haiti's forests remained.[136]Mexico, India, the Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand, Burma, Malaysia, Bangladesh, China, Sri Lanka, Laos, Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Liberia, Guinea, Ghana and the Ivory Coast, have lost large areas of their rainforest.[137][138] Several countries, notably Brazil, have declared their deforestation a national emergency.[139][140] The World Wildlife Fund's ecoregion project catalogues habitat types throughout the world, including habitat loss such as deforestation, showing for example that even in the rich forests of parts of Canada such as the Mid-Continental Canadian forests of the prairie provinces half of the forest cover has been lost or altered.

Regions[edit]

Main article: Deforestation by region

Rates of deforestation vary around the world.

In 2011 Conservation International listed the top 10 most endangered forests, characterized by having all lost 90% or more of their original habitat, and each harboring at least 1500 endemic plant species (species found nowhere else in the world).[141]

Endangered forestRegionRemaining habitatPredominate vegetation typeNotes
Indo-BurmaAsia-Pacific5%Tropical and subtropical moist broadleaf forestsRivers, floodplain wetlands, mangrove forests. Burma, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, India.[142]
New CaledoniaAsia-Pacific5%Tropical and subtropical moist broadleaf forestsSee note for region covered.[143]
SundalandAsia-Pacific7%Tropical and subtropical moist broadleaf forestsWestern half of the Indo-Malayan archipelago including southern Borneo and Sumatra.[144]
PhilippinesAsia-Pacific7%Tropical and subtropical moist broadleaf forestsForests over the entire country including 7,100 islands.[145]
Atlantic ForestSouth America8%Tropical and subtropical moist broadleaf forestsForests along Brazil's Atlantic coast, extends to parts of Paraguay, Argentina and Uruguay.[146]
Mountains of Southwest ChinaAsia-Pacific8%Temperate coniferous forestSee note for region covered.[147]
California Floristic ProvinceNorth America10%Tropical and subtropical dry broadleaf forestsSee note for region covered.[148]
Coastal Forests of Eastern AfricaAfrica10%Tropical and subtropical moist broadleaf forestsMozambique, Tanzania, Kenya, Somalia.[149]
Madagascar & Indian Ocean IslandsAfrica10%Tropical and subtropical moist broadleaf forestsMadagascar, Mauritius, Reunion, Seychelles, Comoros.[150]
Eastern AfromontaneAfrica11%Tropical and subtropical moist broadleaf forests
Montane grasslands and shrublands
Forests scattered along the eastern edge of Africa, from Saudi Arabia in the north to Zimbabwe in the south.[151]
Table source:[141]

Control[edit]

Reducing emissions[edit]

Main article: Reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation

Main international organizations including the United Nations and the World Bank, have begun to develop programs aimed at curbing deforestation. The blanket term Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) describes these sorts of programs, which use direct monetary or other incentives to encourage developing countries to limit and/or roll back deforestation. Funding has been an issue, but at the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Conference of the Parties-15 (COP-15) in Copenhagen in December 2009, an accord was reached with a collective commitment by developed countries for new and additional resources, including forestry and investments through international institutions, that will approach USD 30 billion for the period 2010–2012.[152] Significant work is underway on tools for use in monitoring developing country adherence to their agreed REDD targets. These tools, which rely on remote forest monitoring using satellite imagery and other data sources, include the Center for Global Development's FORMA (Forest Monitoring for Action) initiative[153] and the Group on Earth Observations' Forest Carbon Tracking Portal.[154] Methodological guidance for forest monitoring was also emphasized at COP-15.[155] The environmental organization Avoided Deforestation Partners leads the campaign for development of REDD through funding from the U.S. government.[156] In 2014, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and partners launched Open Foris – a set of open-source software tools that assist countries in gathering, producing and disseminating information on the state of forest resources.[157] The tools support the inventory lifecycle, from needs assessment, design, planning, field data collection and management, estimation analysis, and dissemination. Remote sensing image processing tools are included, as well as tools for international reporting for Reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD) and MRV (Measurement, Reporting and Verification)[158] and FAO's Global Forest Resource Assessments.

A satellite image showing deforestation for a palm oil plantation in Malaysia
The forest transition and historical baselines.[85]
An array of Neolithic artifacts, including bracelets, axe heads, chisels, and polishing tools.
Easter Island, deforested. According to Jared Diamond: "Among past societies faced with the prospect of ruinous deforestation, Easter Island and Mangareva chiefs succumbed to their immediate concerns, but Tokugawa shoguns, Inca emperors, New Guinea highlanders, and 16th century German landowners adopted a long view and reafforested."[94]
Deforestation around Pakke Tiger Reserve, India

Deforestation is the cutting of trees permanently by the people to clear forests to get free land for further usage like farming, housing, industrialization, urbanization, etc.

Essay on Deforestation

Deforestation is arising as the main environmental and social issue which has now taken the form of more than a powerful demon. We must know about the causes, effects and ways to solve the problems arisen because of the deforestation. We have provided many paragraphs, long and short essay on deforestation in order to help your kids and children to get aware about the problem as well as get participated in the essay writing competition in the school or outside the school. You can select any deforestation essay given below according to the class standard:

Deforestation Essay 1 (100 words)

Deforestation is the removal of forests on a big level by cutting down plants or burning of forests for fulfilling the personal needs. Forests are of great importance for the whole human fraternity as well as managing the natural balance in the environment. However, human beings are regularly cutting down the trees without seeing its side effects on the society and environment. Woods have been of great importance historically from the ancient time and used for many purposes like heating fuel, building houses, ships, paper production and many more daily activities of the human beings. Forests are very necessary for us and our future generations to enjoy and live a healthy and peaceful life in the healthy environment free of pollution.

Deforestation Essay 2 (150 words)

Deforestation is arising as the major global problem to the society and environment. It is like a serious penalty to the planet and indicating the end of life on this planet. The regular cutting of the forests is creating lots of negative effects over the climate, environment, biodiversity, whole atmosphere as well as threatening the cultural and physical survival of the human being. There are many causes of the deforestation such as wood extraction because of the increasing human population and industrial interests of people. Woods are considered as the primary product of the forest and structural component of the physical requirement of the human being.

Exploding human population requires more land to live and harvesting so they need to cut the forests. In this way deforestation is going on more rapidly to fulfill the human needs in many ways. However, the effects of deforestation are faster than the deforestation itself. It is affecting the human lives to a great extent by forcing the negative changes to the environment and atmosphere.

Deforestation Essay 3 (200 words)

Deforestation is the removal of trees on a vast level for fulfilling all the requirements of the growing population. Humans being are so selfish; they are doing deforestation by completely removing the forests without replanting. However, they do not know that unknowingly they are digging a big pit for their own. People are changing the forests into the land forms for getting more wood, fuel, harvesting, making farms, building home and cities to live comfortably.

Deforestation results in many effects like loss of animal home, animals are dying, environment change, seasonal change, increasing temperature, rising environmental heat, global warming, increasing green house gas effect, melting ice caps and glaciers, increasing seas level, weakening ozone layer, hole in the ozone layer, sea animal dying, increasing risks of natural disaster like storm, cyclone, typhoon, flood, drought, and many more negative changes which are enough to last the existence of life on the earth.

Forests plays great role in balancing the human life and environmental cycle by regulating the water cycle, production of soil, providing habitat for animals, providing oxygen, utilizing harmful CO2, regulating environmental temperature, preventing soil erosion and many more. By cutting the forests we are stopping all the positive activities done by forests in the favour of human and environment.

Deforestation Essay 4 (250 words)

Deforestation is the rapid loss of forests by cutting plants regularly without replanting. It is endangering the wildlife, human health and environment. Increasing human population, increasing crowd, increasing competition in the world force human being to cut the forests and establish well developed cities or farms or land for harvesting. In such a competitive world, every nation want to overlap other developed and advanced countries to go ahead and make them powerful. People are in need to cut the forests to make houses, parks, multiplexes, industries, public infrastructure, paper production, fuel, etc. Some greedy people are cutting forests for earning more money by selling woods and increasing the danger to the wildlife and human life.

Wild animals are migrating and dying, original flora and fauna are lasting, environment is changing negatively and disturbing the human life. Natural habitat of the most important animals is destroying because of this some are migrating to other areas or entering to the human areas or dying. We need to preserve trees by stopping the forest cutting or replanting the plants in order to save the animal sanctuary and maintaining the natural cycles of the environment to save the life here in future. Preservation of forests is also necessary to get fresh and healthy oxygen as well as reducing the amount of carbon dioxide gas.

Deforestation lead to increasing air pollution, increasing level of poisonous gases in the environment, increasing soil and water pollution, increasing environmental heat, and many more. All the negative effects of deforestation cause many health disorders and most importantly lungs and respiratory problems.


 

Deforestation Essay 5 (300 words)

Deforestation is the finishing of the forests by the human beings. Increasing human population day by day is increasing the need for land on the earth for agricultural, industrial, residential, commercial, cities and other purposes which involves permanent forest removal. In the last century, our earth was covered with the forests everywhere however now-a-days only some counted forests exist. Deforestation is a big problem in India as well as other countries. It is a global issue arising as the big environmental and social issue around the globe.

Deforestation disturbs the human lives by causing several imbalances ecologically and environmentally. Deforestation is alarming continuously and indicating the need to stop cutting plants for the safety of human lives. Some people are doing deforestation to fulfill their greediness of earning money from wood. People are cutting plants for their agricultural activities, logging (to make papers, match-sticks, furniture, etc), urbanization (road construction, housing, etc), desertification of land, mining (oil and coal mining), fires (to get heat), etc.

Deforestation is affecting the health of human being and fresh environment through climate imbalance, increasing global warming, soil erosion, floods, wildlife extinction, decreasing level fresh oxygen and increasing carbon dioxide gas and many more. Deforestation is very necessary stop in order to run the life as usual in better way. There should be some strict rules and regulations by the government of the country which everyone must follow to check deforestation. There should be simple and easy ways to make common people aware about the causes and effects of deforestation. Population should be controlled to lessen the need of forests cutting. Whenever any plant is cut, there should be rules for replanting the plants in the place of old one.


 

Deforestation Essay 6 (400 words)

Deforestation is the permanent destruction of the forests in order to enhance sources for life and use of woods. Cutting plant is not bad however cutting it permanently is bad. If one is cutting plant, he/she should do replanting on the same place or other place. Deforestation is one for many purposes like harvesting, livestock, logging, building houses, furniture, roads, firewood, industrialization, and other many purposes. Deforestation is affecting the environment more badly and more rapidly. Earth was full of forests in the last century however currently around eighty percent of the forests have been cut and destroyed and even rain forests has been disappeared permanently.

Forests are required for the wellness of the wild animals, human being and environment. Because of the deforestation many unique species of the plants and animals has been extinct permanently. The process of plant cutting is disrupting the natural carbon cycle and increasing its level in the environment day by day. Forests are the best medium to utilize the CO2 gas from the environment as well as remove other pollutants from the atmosphere and thus maintain the freshness of the environment. Whenever trees are destroyed or burned by any means it releases carbon and methane which is dangerous for human life. Both of the gases are called as the green house gas and involve in the greenhouse effect which ultimately causes global warming.

Forests are very necessary for the proper rain, getting medicine, air freshness, removing air pollution, getting wood for many purposes, etc. When we cut plants, it disturbs all the cycles and affects human lives. Instead of cutting plants to fulfill the need of paper, we should make the habit of recycling the old things as possible as to avoid the cut of new plants. Just imagine the planet without water, life is not possible. And same way, life is also not possible without plants and forests as they are the source of rain, fresh air, animal habitat, shadows, wood, etc.

Without plant, it is not possible to rain on the earth, nor fresh air, no animals, no shadows, no woods, and medicine. Everywhere would be only heat, warm, drought, flood, storm, carbon dioxide gas, methane, other poisonous gases, no winter season and rainy season, only summer season. We should join our hands together to prevent the deforestation. We should not waste the papers and avoid the unnecessary use of things like paper kitchen towels, facial tissues, etc. We should think about the reuse and recycle of the papers things without wasting them to lessen the need of plants cutting. Saving forests and plants is in our own hand and only a small step from the end of us all may show a big result towards stopping deforestation.

 

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