Deforestation occurs around the world, though tropical rainforests are particularly targeted.
Countries with significant deforestation currently or in the recent past include Brazil, Indonesia,
Thailand, the Democratic Republic of Congo and other parts of Africa, and parts of astern
urope,according to !RID"Arendal, a #nited $ations n%ironment &rogram collaborating
Though deforestation has increased rapidly in the last '( years, it has been practiced throughout
history. )or e*ample, since +,((, -( percent of continental #nited .tates/ indigenous forest has
been remo%ed. The 0orld Resources Institute estimates that most of the world/s remaining
indigenous forest 1 about 22 percent of its original amount 1 is located in Canada, Alas3a,
Russia, and the $orthwestern Amazon basin. The Amazon is a highly targeted area of recent
Causes of deforestation
Deforestation is typically done to ma3e more land a%ailable for housing and urbanization, timber,
large scale cash crops such as soy and palm oil, and cattle ranching. The 0orld 0ildlife )und
reports that much of the logging industry that contributes to deforestation is done illegally 4about
half of it used for firewood5.
Common methods of deforestation are burning trees and clear cutting, which is the contro%ersial
practice of complete remo%al of a gi%en tract of forest. A forestry e*pert 6uoted by the $atural
Resources Defense Council describes clear cutting as 7an ecological trauma that has no
precedent in nature e*cept for a ma8or %olcanic eruption.7
Burning can be done 6uic3ly, in %ast swaths of land for plantation use, or more slowly with the
slash"and"burn techni6ue. This destructi%e practice entails cutting down a patch of trees, burning
them, and growing crops on the land until the soil becomes too degraded from o%ergrazing and
sun e*posure for new growth. Then, the farmers mo%e on to a new patch of land.
Effects of deforestation
)orests are comple* ecosystems that are important to the carbon and water cycles that sustain life
on earth. 0hen they are degraded, it can set off a de%astating chain of e%ents both locally and
around the world.
Loss of Species: .e%enty percent of the world/s plants and animals li%e in forests and are losing
their habitats to deforestation. 9oss of habitat can lead to species e*tinction. This is not only a
biodi%ersity tragedy but also has negati%e conse6uences for medicinal research and local
populations who rely on the animals and plants in the forests for hunting and medicine.
Carbon Emissions: :ealthy forests help absorb greenhouse gasses and carbon emissions that
are caused by human ci%ilization and contribute to global climate change. 0ithout trees, more
carbon and greenhouse gasses enter the atmosphere. To ma3e matters worse, trees actually
become carbon sources when they are cut, burned, or otherwise remo%ed. ;Tropical forests hold
more than 2+( gigatons of carbon, and deforestation represents around +' percent of greenhouse
gas emissions,< according to the 00).
Water Cycle: Trees play an important part in the water cycle, grounding the water in their roots
and releasing it into the atmosphere. In the Amazon, more than half the water in the ecosystem is
held within the plants. 0ithout the plants, the climate may become dryer.
Soil Erosion= 0ithout tree roots to anchor the soil and with increased e*posure to sun, the soil
can dry out, leading to problems li3e increased flooding and inability to farm. The 00) states
that scientists estimate that a third of the world/s arable land has been lost to deforestation since
+-,(. Cash crops planted after clear cutting or burning 1 li3e soy, coffee, and palm oil 1 can
actually e*acerbate soil erosion because their roots cannot hold onto the soil the way trees/ can.
Life Quality: .oil erosion can also lead to silt entering the la3es, streams, and other water
sources. This can decrease local water 6uality, contributing to poor health in the local population.
All of these factors can ha%e ad%erse effects on local economies. Increased flooding, lac3 of
6uality water, and inability to produce their own food causes many locals migrate to cities that
lac3 infrastructure for them. >r, they wor3 on plantations, worsening the deforestation problem
and at times being sub8ected to inhumane wor3ing conditions.
Deforestation is the permanent destruction of indigenous forests and woodlands. The term does
not include the remo%al of industrial forests such as plantations of gums or pines. Deforestation
has resulted in the reduction of indigenous forests to four"fifths of their pre"agricultural area.
Indigenous forests now co%er 2+? of the earth@s land surface.
In a forest the crowns of indi%idual trees touch to form a single canopy. In a woodland, trees
grow far apart, so that the canopy is open.
#O$#% #O$# #OE&
>f great concern is the rate at which deforestation is occurring. Currently, +2 million hectares of
forests are cleared annually " an area +,A times the size of BwaCuluD$atalE Almost all of this
deforestation occurs in the moist forests and open woodlands of the tropics. At this rate all moist
tropical forest could be lost by the year 2('(, e*cept for isolated areas in Amazonia, the Caire
basin, as well as a few protected areas within reser%es and par3s. .ome countries such as I%ory
Coast, $igeria, Costa Rica, and .ri 9an3a are li3ely to lose all their tropical forests by the year
2(+( if no conser%ation steps are ta3en.
Deforestation is brought about by the following=
F con%ersion of forests and woodlands to agricultural land to feed growing numbers of peopleG
F de%elopment of cash crops and cattle ranching, both of which earn money for tropical
F commercial logging 4which supplies the world mar3et with woods such as meranti, tea3,
mahogany and ebony5 destroys trees as well as opening up forests for agricultureG
F felling of trees for firewood and building materialG the hea%y lopping of foliage for fodderG and
hea%y browsing of saplings by domestic animals li3e goats.
To compound the problem, the poor soils of the humid tropics do not support agriculture for
long. Thus people are often forced to mo%e on and clear more forests in order to maintain
F Alteration of local and global climates through disruption of=
a5 The carbon cycle. )orests act as a ma8or carbon store because carbon dio*ide 4C>25 is ta3en
up from the atmosphere and used to produce the carbohydrates, fats, and proteins that ma3e up
the tree. 0hen forests are cleared, and the trees are either burnt or rot, this carbon is released as
C>2. This leads to an increase in the atmospheric C>2 concentration. C>2 is the ma8or
contributor to the greenhouse effect. It is estimated that deforestation contributes one"third of all
C>2 releases caused by people.
b5 The water cycle. Trees draw ground water up through their roots and release it into the
atmosphere 4transpiration5. In Amazonia o%er half of all the water circulating through the
region@s ecosystem remains within the plants. 0ith remo%al of part of the forest, the region
cannot hold as much water. The effect of this could be a drier climate.
F Soil erosion 0ith the loss of a protecti%e co%er of %egetation more soil is lost.
F Silting of water courses, lakes and dams This occurs as a result of soil erosion.
F Extinction of species which depend on the forest for sur%i%al. )orests contain more than half of
all species on our planet " as the habitat of these species is destroyed, so the number of species
declines 4see n%iro )acts 7Biodi%ersity75.
F Desertification The causes of desertification are comple*, but deforestation is one of the
contributing factors 4see n%iro )acts 7Desertification75
!$! )O( *OW"
F The 0orld Resources Institute regards deforestation as one of the world@s most pressing land"
use problems.
F An area of forest e6ual to 2( football or rugby fields is lost e%ery minute.
F .outh Africa@s climate is such that less than (,'? of its surface area is co%ered with indigenous
forest " great care should be ta3en to conser%e the little we ha%e.
F #se wood sparingly. An energy"efficient sto%e, The $umber >ne 0ood .to%e is a%ailable
from= Hr C. le Clezio, & > Bo* ''AAA, $orthlands, 2++,. Tel. (++"IJ,,I(-.
F To learn how to ma3e a low"cost, energy"efficient sto%e contact= Dr A Harsh, .mall Industries
&ro8ect, &.>. Bo* +KA, 0indhoe3, $amibia. Tel.(,+",K'2I.
F The 70onder Bo*7 is a cheap, simple way to sa%e fuel, whether wood or electricity. )or a
demonstration or to order= 0omen for &eace, &> Bo* JI2AA, :oughton, 2(K+. Tel.(++",K,K'(+
F &lant indigenous trees.