Deforestation : Causes and Impact

Forests provide more than a home for a diverse collection of living things. They are also an important resource for many around the world and are home to 80% of terrestrial biodiversity, containing a wide array of trees, plants, animals and microbes. Over the last century, the forest cover around the globe has been significantly compromised.  This removal of forest or trees from a land and converting it for non -forest use is called deforestation. Deforestation is the destruction of natural forests due to cutting tress and making space for cattle grazing, mining, extraction of oil and natural gas, building dams, bridges and population expansion.

Often, deforestation occurs when forested area is cut and cleared to make way for agriculture or grazing. The other causes for deforestation include:

1.Construction of roads through the forests leads to a division of habitation of animals , birds and other species . It poses a barrier for free movement of wildlife and also encourages uncontrolled activity of timber production along with providing easy access to logging.

2.Natural fires in tropical forests tend to be rare but intense . Human-lit fires are commonly used to clear the land for agricultural use. First, valuable timber is harvested, then the remaining vegetation is burned to make way for crops like soy or cattle grazing. According to recent reports, more than 80,000 fires burned in the Amazon, an increase of almost 80% from 2018.

3.Timber production is another prime cause of deforestation. It is not only used as an important construction material but also forms an important source of raw material for paper production.

4.Many forests are cleared to make way for palm oil plantations (a commonly produced vegetable oil). It’s cheap, versatile and can be added to both food and personal products like lipsticks and shampoo. Its popularity has spurred people to clear tropical forests to grow more palm trees. Growing the trees that produce the oil requires the leveling of native forest and the destruction of local farmlands — which doubles the effect on the ecosystem.

5.Grass lands are needed for cattle feeding and developing the cattle growing industry. In order to raise the cattle cheaply, several countries tend to deforest as it is cheap and allows the local industry to meet the demand of multinationals for cheaper animal products.

Deforestation not only removes vegetation that is important for removing carbon dioxide from the air, but the act of clearing the forests also produces greenhouse gas emissions (around 20% according to a recent study). It results in a decline in biodiversity and increases rates of soil loss.  Deforestation also results in changes in precipitation and river flow as it  reduces the content of water in the soil and groundwater as well as atmospheric moisture.

Forests can also be restored, through replanting trees in cleared areas or simply allowing the forest ecosystem to regenerate over time. Everyone can do their part to curb deforestation. We can adopt sustainable farming practices, make factories more cleaner and monitor their emissions, forest management and strict monitoring of tree cutting should be carried out by various government and other NGOs and plant a tree when possible. 

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