Climate change has been the on the minds of everyone lately. Through the years, more and more trees are being cut down for commercial use and at this rate, the effect that deforestation has on the environment is taking a toll on the ecology of the land. CO2 levels have risen higher than we have imagined, which can eventually cause harm to humans. Cutting down trees releases elements that are naturally balanced without the tree being cut down. By doing so, an unhealthy amount of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, phosphorus and sulfur are released into the air. Deforestation is clearance, clearcutting or clearing is the removal of a forest or stand of trees from land which is then converted to a non-forest use. Over time, more and more trees have been cut down for the use of everyday life.  Deforestation can involve conversion of forest land to farms, ranches, or urban use. The most concentrated deforestation occurs in tropical rainforest. While this occurs, the government seems to overlook the fact that our trees are the most important source of our survival. Corruption at the government institutions, wealth and power due to harvesting of the riches of the forest, population growth and urbanization are some of the common causes. A way to understand why deforestation happens is to see how it happens. Some of the causes of deforestation are:

  • Urban Construction: trees for building materials, furniture, and paper products
  • Agriculture: trees for growing new crops, building farms and raches,
  • Grazing Land: to create land for grazing cattle and other herds of animals
  • Used for Fuel: used as firewood and charcoal for heating and cooking
  • Commercial Purposes: clearing forests for oil and mining exploitation, to make highways and roads, slash and burn farming techniques, wildfires, and acid rain
  • Illegal Logging: Trees are cut down indiscriminately by logging companies, to fulfill the demands of the wood market. This does not give a chance to the local wildlife and trees to regenerate and sustain themselves.

By looking at the different causes of deforestation, you realize that more and more trees are being cut down because it’s something that we need. What is not understood is the that cutting down too many trees at a time and not having areas grow back, will leave the ecology of the area damaged. Areas with different ecologies but in the same area, can have a negative effect on the wildlife. Plants and animals that were not there before will appear, leading to an unhealthy diversity of organisms in that biome.

Mining is one of the leading factors of deforestation today. Construction workers and Plant workers, while just doing their job, dont seem to understand the environment around them. Trees are cut down to build railroads and to make buildings. While this is happening, the amount of emissions being let off into the areas are damaging to the environment. The two most known disturbances of railways are the noise and vibrations caused by passing trains. However, railways are also responsible for a large amount of emissions that cover a wide range of pollutants and toxic substances that affect the atmosphere, soil and water worldwide. The mining projects are often accompanied with large construction such as railroads, highways, and power systems. This puts additional pressure on the forest and freshwater ecosystems. The amount of work the construction workers have to do to build such large roads and inventions leads to emissions and air pollution. The emissions that come from the construction site get into the water, leaving it contaminated.

A notorious pollutant used in gold extraction is mercury. In the vicinity of gold extraction sites, it may be found in high concentrations in fish, affecting local populations. Mercury also ends up in the atmosphere, from where it returns to forests. Mining can impact the area’s water drainage, pollute water with run-off from the mine, and threaten local communities, including indigenous people, by affecting the quality of the food supply. For example, 90% of fish caught by rural villagers south of gold mining areas of the Tapajós River in Brazil were found to be contaminated with methylmercury 2. This chemical is dangerous for the nervous system as well as foetuses. Green infrastructure is an approach to water management that protects, restores, or mimics the natural water cycle. Green infrastructure is effective, economical, and enhances community safety and quality of life. It means planting trees and restoring wetlands, rather than building a costly new water treatment plant. It means choosing water efficiency instead of building a new water supply dam. It means restoring floodplains instead of building taller levees. By starting to build more trees, and not more buildings, we can continue to restore the natural setting of forests and help decrease deforestation.

America, China, Japan, and Canada make up more than of the world’s paper production—400 million tons a year.If we recycled, we could save 27.5 million tons of carbon dioxide from going into the atmosphere. By using recycled paper, we allow the forests to remain as an ecosystem and wildlife habitat. The forest practices associated with some pulp and paper operations have had devastating impacts on some of the world’s most ecologically important places and species. Unsustainable pulp and paper operations have contributed to conversion of high conservation value forests, illegal harvesting, human rights and social conflicts, and irresponsible plantation development. Even in this digital era, it’s rare that a day goes by without us interacting with a product made from wood pulp: a paper cup, till receipts, a cereal box, tickets, tissues, fancy shopping bags, sticky notes, newspapers, books, magazine.

Some of these items are steadily becoming outdated in favour of digitalisation, at least in some parts of the world. As we move into the thick of the 21st century many of us have trained ourselves to stop before printing out emails.  But it’s still hard to imagine our lives without certain paper products. And the truth is about 14% of deforestation is done to satisfy our huge appetite for paper goods . This amounts to the destruction of around 4.1 million hectares of forest each year in the name of our paper obsession – an area the size of the Netherlands every 365 days. This is one of the hardest products to cut back on because this world revolves around money. And as we all know, you can make paper without trees. Cutting down trees for paper goods is going to be something that humans struggle with over time. Although technology has improved over time, we still have uses for paper.

With more people that come with a large need for food and farmland to grow on and raise livestock—resulting in deforestation. As well as many, many more roads and highways are being built in order to accommodate a larger sum of people driving. For instance, population growth is directly related to increase in the demand for food. In order to meet this demand for food, we have to produce more crop. In order to produce more crop, we require more land; and to get more land for cultivation we have started encroaching upon the forestland, cutting down trees and turning vast tracts of lush green forests into large fields. This destruction of tropical rainforests, like the Amazon, is bound to affect the planet as a whole as these forests are home to half the species of plants and animals on the planet. (Not to forget, these forests are referred to as the lungs)of our planet as they produce a significant amount of atmospheric oxygen that we require to survive.)

Expanding cities and towns require land to establish the infrastructures necessary to support growing population which is done by clearing the forests. Tropical forests are a major target of infrastructure developments for oil exploitation, logging concessions or hydropower dam construction which inevitably conveys the expansion of the road network and the construction of roads in pristine areas. The development of these infrastructure projects are of worldwide concern, since tropical forest clearing accounts for roughly 20 percent of anthropogenic carbon emissions destroying globally significant carbon sinks and around 21 percent of tropical forests have been lost worldwide since 1980.

Wood-based industries such as paper, matchsticks, and furniture need a substantial quantity of wood. Lumber and charcoal are common examples of trees being used as fuel. Cooking and heating all around the world use these resources, and half of the illegal removal from forests is thought to be used as fuelwood. In 2010, the global total for reported wood removal was 3.4 billion m3, which does not take into account the amount of wood removed illegally (which is unreported). The demand for wood and paper products is expected to increase as developing countries industrialize, which will only put more pressure on forest ecosystems.  Selective logging — where only the most valuable trees are felled — doesn’t help matters, as one falling tree can bring down dozens of surrounding trees and thin the forest’s protective canopy. The forest canopy is important to the forest’s ecosystem because it houses and protects plant, animal and insect populations. It also protects the forest floor, which slows down soil erosion.On a global level, deforestation worsens the effects of global warming. Forests contribute to atmospheric stability by extracting carbon in the form of carbon dioxide (CO2) through photosynthesis and by collecting and storing carbon, a kind of storage referred to as a carbon trap. Deforestation not only reduces the amount of CO2 extracted but also releases vast quantities of CO2 into the atmosphere. Deforestation also threatens the biodiversity of the planet. Biodiversity refers to the different kinds of plant, animal, and insect species in a specific area. Some scientists define biodiversity more broadly as including the varieties of all forms of life on earth and their interactions with each other and the environment.

Typical logging operations are quite damaging to the rainforest ecosystem. Problems stem from the nature of limited-term timber concessions, which encourage short-term resource depletion, and poor forest planning and management. The structure of the rainforest itself—where no one species dominates and attractive timber trees are widely dispersed—means that it can simply be more profitable to clear- cut forest. Even without clear-cutting, the construction of logging roads to reach forest resources is destructive in the its own right and encourages settlement of previously inaccessible forest lands by speculators, land developers, and poor farmers. Sustainable forestry is possible, but according to the International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO), more than 90 percent of tropical forests are managed poorly or not at all. Several techniques like strip logging and reduced impact logging show potential, but do little good if they are not adopted. Further, studies have show that once logged, forest has a much higher likelihood of eventual deforestation due to road construction, increased risk of fire, and over-extraction of valuable species.

An increasing supply demand for products such as palm oil and soybeans are driving producers to clear forests at an unnerving rate. Farmers often clear the land for cattle by using slash and burn techniques (cutting down trees and burning them).  Instead of using the prescribed/control fire burning, they just cut down the tree and burn it which takes longer for that trees to grow. Farmers clear the land for crops or for cattle and often will clear acres of land using slash and burn techniques — cutting down trees and then burning them. Migratory farmers clear a forest area and use it until the soil becomes too degraded for crops. Then they move on and clear a new patch of forest. The abandoned land, if left untouched, will eventually reforest, but it will take many, many years to return to its original state. The most significant agricultural drivers of deforestation include soy, palm oil, and cattle ranching. The majority of industrial agriculture activities affecting forestland typically take place in developing countries that produce commodities for global markets. For instance,  In the rainforests of the Congo basin and Africa, traditional agriculture is the most common form of agricultural land use, although commercial agriculture of crops such as palm oil is growing.

In Southeast Asia, the palm oil sector is the primary driver of forest conversion. Indonesian forests store even more carbon per hectare than the Brazilian Amazon thanks to their carbon-rich soil; palm cultivation there was responsible for 2 to 9 percent of worldwide emissions from tropical land use between 2000 and 2010. In Malaysia, the carbon stock of tropical forests can range up to 99 million kilograms of carbon per square mile. That’s equivalent to the emissions from driving an average car from New York to San Francisco and back 76 times. Agriculture, population issues, timber harvesting, social and political divisions, mining, and the necessity of roads are some of the reasons why forest areas are cut down. These activities have been carried out for a long time and their repercussions are being felt now. With an aim to set up an agricultural industry, authorities make use of slash-and-burn techniques to remove the land area.

All plants take in carbon dioxide and release oxygen. Trees are able to convert more carbon dioxide than a regular plant, though. Forest loss is often caused by climate change. Tropical rainforests are extremely humid due to the water vapor released along with the oxygen. Global warming or global change includes anthropogenically produced climatic and ecological problems such as recent apparent climatic temperature shifts and precipitation regimes in some areas, sea level rise, stratospheric ozone depletion, atmospheric pollution and forest decline. Tropical forests are shrinking at a rate of about five per cent per decade as forests are logged and cleared to supply local, regional, national and global markets for wood products, cattle, agricultural produce and biofuels. Since we live in an age where carbon dioxide is very abundant in the atmosphere, released through man-made inventions, such as cars, factories, and power plants, it is vital, more than ever, that trees fulfill their part in the environment and take some of the excess carbon dioxide out of the air. Unfortunately, deforestation is preventing this job to be fully accomplished, and with half of all the Earth’s forests gone, and four million trees cut down each year just for paper use, the amount of carbon dioxide is rising. With more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, more of the sun’s radiation is being reflected back to earth, instead of space, and this is causing our average temperature to rise. In this way, deforestation is a major issue when it comes to global warming.

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