Deforestation: Causes, Effects, and Solutions
Climate change and global warming are hot topics of discussion today in almost every global forum and these problems are to a large extent caused by deforestation. The fact is that humans and animals cannot survive if deforestation continues the way it is at present. At present, there seems to be no end in sight and deforestation is capable of altering the future of the whole earth. That’s why it’s important to understand what deforestation is, what is causing deforestation, its effects on our life and planet and how we can together solve this potentially disastrous situation.
What is Deforestation
Children often ask, “What is deforestation?” and the answer is simple enough! It’s the cutting down of trees by humans or by natural causes which lead to reduced forest areas. More often than not, humans are the problem with their increased requirement of wood for construction, urbanisation and a host of other reasons and thus cause widespread deforestation across the world. Deforestation is converting wooded areas into farms, ranches or cities. Most deforestation activities benefit the production of other commodities like soy, palm oil, and other lucrative commodities. As of now, the most widespread deforestation is in the Amazon rainforest of South America.
What are the Causes of Deforestation
Deforestation can happen wherever there are dense trees and it is caused either deliberately, naturally or by accident. The common causes of deforestation are volcanic eruptions, avalanches, hurricanes, climate or temperature change, drought, severe insect infestation, disease, residential, agricultural, commercial or industrial land development, strip mining, logging, unsustainable forest management and human activities. The increased population is also a major factor as the more people, the more are the resources required. This is a very dangerous trend because deforestation is self-perpetuating which results in further deforestation. While it may appear that most deforestation occurs due to natural or accidental reasons, it is actually human activity that causes the most deforestation worldwide.
Effects of Deforestation
The consequences of deforestation have been very far-reaching and impacted the environment and livelihood of many.
- Forests take in carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and release oxygen with the Amazon rainforests of South America being responsible for 20 percent of Earth’s oxygen that we breathe in. When trees are cut down, the carbon dioxide is released back into the atmosphere, increasing the greenhouse gases in our atmosphere.
- Trees help to control the level of atmospheric water and when they are cut down, there is less water in the air to return to the soil disturbing the water cycle. This results in dryer soil which will eventually stop supporting agriculture or ranching.
- 80 percent of the animal and plant species inhabit forests and deforestation results in loss of habitat for many animal and plant species. Forest trees provide shelter and regulate light and temperatures. Cutting of trees results in temperature changes and increased sunlight which can prove disastrous for many plant and animal species as it results in endangerment or extinction of species.
- The roots of various plants prevent soil erosion. Deforestation degrades the quality of soil as fertile topsoil gets washed away leaving the land barren and prone to flooding. Soil erosion perpetuates deforestation as new land is deforested to support crop growth or cattle grazing.
- A lot of indigenous people rely completely on forests for their livelihood and they are adversely affected due to deforestation. Deforestation kills plants they may use for medicine and sustenance, drives away the animals, leaves them vulnerable to the elements and disrupts their life.
- One of the major consequences of deforestation is that due to the absence of sufficient trees, severe climatic changes are visible.
Measures to Curb Deforestation
There are certain measures which can be adopted by people to reduce deforestation and reverse its effects, the obvious solution being to stop the human activities that are causing it. However, the increasing population of people has caused an increase in demand for the things grown on deforested land. If deforestation continues as it is at present, global warming and climate change will continue unabated and eventually lead to the destruction of life on earth.
- Plant a tree whenever and wherever possible. Every tree that is planted reduces the effects of deforestation.
- Start practising the concept of reducing, reusing and recycling in your daily lives and encourage others to do the same.
- Since paper comes from trees, try reducing the use of paper in your daily lives. Don’t discard paper that has only been used on one side.
- Spread awareness about the importance of afforestation and the dangers of deforestation.
- Promote products which ensure reduced or no deforestation.
- Do some research and find out about organisations which are actively fighting deforestation and its effect globally. This will give you an idea on ways to help slow and gradually stop deforestation. Organisations like WWF, IUCN and the Pachamama Alliance have been working with government officials, companies and communities to promote responsible forest management practices, reforming trade policies, combating illegal logging and protecting forests. They have been providing public and private organisations with tools and information that simultaneously enable human progress, economic development and protection of forests. They offer people the opportunity to learn, engage, travel, and cherish life so that there is a sustainable future for all.
- Become an advocate of afforestation and become a subscriber or donor of an accredited organisation that is actively and responsibly working towards stopping unnecessary deforestation.
Deforestation happens when large areas of forest lands are cleared for a variety of human activities. This is mainly because of the increasing population which requires more and more resources and commodities. Deforestation is mainly carried out for monetary gains and man’s greed but we pay a very heavy price with it. Around 18 million acres of forests are cleared each year for various reasons. Deforestation has disastrous effects on our environment like loss of habitat for many animal and plant species, global warming and climate change. But it’s not too late and there are several measures that can be taken to curb deforestation and its effects. If you are looking for more information on what are the causes of deforestation, its effects and the measures to curb it, check out the EuroKids website.