|Every year about 18 million acres of forest are lost to deforestation/ Photo By Dudarev Mikhail via Shutterstock|
Some of the best nature documentaries are set in our beautiful forests, where scenes of flora and fauna abound.
However, with the disappearances of our forests, it may be difficult for us to ever see a forest again in a century’s time. What exactly is causing deforestation and what consequences will it have for us?
Rate of Deforestation
About 31% of all the land on Earth is covered in forests. This percentage may sound good now, but every year about 18 million acres of forest are lost to deforestation. Live Science reports that already, around half of the world’s rainforests are gone. Some of the areas that have had the worst deforestation cases include Brazil, Thailand, parts of Africa, and Indonesia.
Deforestation is nothing new. In fact, it seems that 90 % of the indigenous forests of the United States have been cut down since the 1600s. However, the processes that make our forests disappear have spiked in the past 50 years.
Causes of Deforestation
The increased demand for food due to the increasing population has pushed for an increase in agricultural lands. In order to expand agriculture, forests need to be cut down and converted into lands for farming. And it's not only food products that are harvested here. Extracts like soy and palm oil are in great demand due to their use in non-food products, such as make-up, shampoo, and animal feeds. The forests are also being converted into ranch land to provide more space for farm animals to grow. More often than not, a converted forest will not return to its former state.
Aside from that, the forests are being harvested for wood that can be used for many human needs, such as constructing furniture, paper products, and housing. Trees are also cut down to make way for more housing space and for commercial projects. A great amount of it is also being taken for fuelwood. It seems that half of the illegal cutting of wood is to obtain fuelwood, as well as for heating and cooking purposes.
A great destructive power that razes down several millions of acres of woodland every year is a forest fire. Fires themselves are a natural part of a forest’s life cycle, and can even be beneficial. However, they become problematic when they are incredibly severe, and fires are often the method by which people take down forests to create agricultural land. The soil fertility and composition becomes severely altered, while also threatening the lives of the animals and people and ruining biodiversity in the area.
Forests aren’t just clumps of trees, they’re full ecosystems that have thousands of living organisms working co-dependently in order to survive and thrive, and they have a large effect on the world as a whole. About 13 million people in the world across the that are directly related to the forest sector, while another 41 million have occupations related to it in some way. If forests were to die out, these people would consequently lose their means of livelihood. Not only that, but the 750 million individuals, who live in rural areas near forests and many of whom are indigenous people, will lose their source of food, water, shelter, and fuel.
|90 % of the indigenous forests of the United States have been cut down since the 1600s/ Photo By Rich Carey via Shutterstock|
Forests purify our water and provide a home for 80% of the world’s land-based animal species. Already, 17% of the Amazon rain forest has succumbed to deforestation in the past 50 years, as stated by National Geographic. This area is home to much of Earth’s biodiversity, and so its destruction means that we are slowly but surely creating a mass extinction.
They also serve as the world’s “carbon sink” due to their ability to absorb carbon dioxide to turn it into their own fuel. Without them, carbon dioxide would circulate unmitigated in our atmosphere and cause a drastic increase in air pollution. Forests help with slowing down the rate of climate change and normalizing climate patterns. So, when forests are cut down, they lead to an increase in the emissions of greenhouse gases. Forest degradation actually amounts to 15% of the greenhouse gas emissions in a year.
Aside from this, the very Earth and its natural processes are being affected. Trees are able to keep the balance between air and land water by keeping water down in the ground. When this water cycle is compromised due to the undue cutting of trees, it results in heavier rain flow and flooding from rivers. The roots of trees are what anchor soil firmly to the ground. Without them, the soil is easily eroded into the river and the land becomes more prone to mud and landslides that can take lives. According to World Wildlife.org, about a third of the viable land has already been eroded away due to the consequences of deforestation.
Our Earth is the only planet that we’ve found that has forests and vegetation, as well as all the animals that live in these richly biodiverse lands. Everyone should put in the effort to save the forests so that we can save ourselves.