The equivalent of thirty-six football fields of forests are being cut down every minute. At that rate, twelve to fifteen million hectares of forest are lost annually. These stats occur because of the process known as deforestation, one of mankind's most infamous processes. The earth's forests supply the air mammals breathe, provide a home for a variety of species in the animal kingdom, and clean the harmful chemicals, such as carbon dioxide, out of the air in an efficient and safe manner.
As the population grows and humanity seeks to expand, the need to clear these forests to simply make room for everything has become apparent. In the battle between humankind and the animal kingdom, deforestation is the direct threat to each group. The potential problems with deforestation has led to two opinionated sides of the argument. Those in favor of deforestation claim it creates jobs, buildable space for residential and industrial districts, as well as farms to feed those in need.
As the world grows, the demand for food is rising and pro deforestation advocates believe turning the previous forest plot into fertile farmland. Also, the newly chopped wood can be turned into a variety of products, helping the economy. They believe the grazing animals such as horses and cattle would benefit more from this newly available land. Lastly, wood can be used as an alternative energy resource. On the other hand, those against deforestation realize the harm and threat to humankind it causes. They believe it causes domino effects such as natural disasters, flooding, soil degradation, and the extinction of various species.
Another idea is that it leads to global warming and climate change. They believe the forests are irreplaceable and the effects are irreversible, and will certainly lead to the end of the planet Earth. Also, the oxygen levels are lowered while the carbon levels are raised. With all of these ideals in mind, deforestation causes more environmental harm, immediate and long term, than it does help.
The issue of deforestation has been a part of man's world ever since humans began to expand, grow, and explore. An example of one of the first times deforestation happened in history is when the Mayan empire decided to keep expanding their empire and needed more room for the civilization. They realized that the then-massive Amazon rainforest was in the way of where they wanted to expand, so they decided to clear a path by chopping down the trees. A second example of this occurring is when America was first discovered. As people began migrating to North America, the forests were rich and plentiful. However, as more and more came over, both the population and the desire to expand led to the same issue: the forests are in the way. So, deforestation became a new problem in the more modern American world.
At first, mankind had no problem with it, as they did not realize the harm it caused and they were focused on expanding. As time wore on, the opposition began to grow as science improved and people became more concerned with the environment. The same goes for society's opinion on the matter. The opinion is split right down the middle. Currently in modern day America, the general policy is to protect the forests. Although it is not currently an issue in the U.S, the government has taken steps to protect them by creating large scale national parks and national forests, open to the public so the public can still enjoy the beauty of nature in a modern, urban world.
The government has expressed their policies to the foreign countries. Currently, many protests around the world are occurring, fueled by environmentalists. They are concerned about the world's ecosystem, and people are following suit and also debating with them. The history of deforestation has been a rocky road, and now more than ever, people are becoming opinionated and taking sides on a growing controversial issue.
Advocates for deforestation explain that deforestation creates jobs, not only for the logging business, but for the potential jobs in the buildings built on the previous forest plot. The logging industry creates many jobs, not only for the people actually cutting the trees down, but for those who process the timber. Also, the U.S. is one of the highest exporters of timber based products, such as furniture. (Pepke, 2010). This means the people who work in shipping companies have jobs to do as well. Lastly, jobs such as those in the growing paper industry are being created as well. All of these points are valid and correct; however, keeping the forests creates jobs in itself. Keeping and protecting the forests creates jobs such as conservationists and environmentalists. The creation of National Parks and Forests require a lot of attention for upkeep. These parks also include jobs such as park rangers, research officers, and historians.
Plus, a major part of deforested areas are deforested illegally, and the timber is used or sold for personal gain, not for the economy of a whole. Those illegally chopping down the forests are stealing the jobs from the actual industries who help the economy. This means that jobs are being lost regardless. This illegal logging is prevalent in Indonesia and the tropical forests there. (Palmer, 2000). The tree poachers cut them down, then sell them to third party companies. All of the industries in Indonesia are being taken over by illegal parties. The corrupt governments as well as failing markets cause these people to find illegal methods to receive revenue. Also, to respond to the potential jobs from previous forest spots, there are plenty of open spaces to build still, while protecting a majority of the forests. The world can compromise and find places to create jobs, while still keeping everything balanced and equal, instead of biasing jobs one way or the other. The issue of job demand can be reduced by reducing deforestation, building on already empty plots, and keeping the conservationists and park rangers in mind.
Primarily, deforestation ruins the soil on which the trees used to lay. It erodes the soil, causes flooding, and generates other various problems for the future destiny of the forest. In an experiment conducted by a group of Colombian scientists, the soil was tested to discover how deforestation affects the soil and its properties. The results were drastic. They tested the soil of both a previous forest, which now is a grassland, and a forest, and "On most ridges covered by grasslands, erosion is so extreme that there is no A horizon and saprolite is continuously removed. On the slopes, the extreme erosion has created an irregular surface in the grasslands compared with the relatively smooth soil surface of the forest" (Cavalier, 1999). This erosion and degradation makes it virtually impossible to grow any sort of tree or crop on the new grassland. Not only this, but it creates an irregular surface on a previously smooth area. This irregular surface can make it impossible to build upon.
Furthermore, deforestation ends up degrading the nutrients of the soil and that ruins any chance for successful agriculture on the previous plot. In a study run by Chinese scientists, an experiment was conducted on soil quality and how deforestation affects it. In their experiments, it was found that "as pore space increased due to the mechanical cultivation, the air exchange increased the available oxygen for microbial decay of organic matter, particularly the particulate organic matter (POM) that is highly effective at binding soil particles” (An, 2005). In short, this means that the deforested area is more open to oxidation, which has been proven to decay the soil and its nutrients. Without this organic matter that is lost, plants cannot grow correctly without intense fertilization and soil tampering, which can cost large sums of money. The deforested soil becomes nearly impossible to use as farmland.
Lastly, the erosion of the soil caused by deforestation causes a flash flooding and flooding issue, as it does not absorb the water as well. A massive global study was run by a group of Australian scientists attempting to prove this fact. In their results, they found that "flood duration had the strongest correlation with natural forest cover” (Chakravarty, 2011). This means that not only the erosion factor plays a role in flooding, but the lack of trees as well. The lack of a strong ecosystem of plants means that the large amounts of water does not get absorbed, as eventually the plants would absorb all of the water. This shows that flood duration is a problem, and causes more damage. It is also harder to clean up. Overall, deforestation affects the soil that the previous forest laid upon in a negative manner. The soil on the plots of previous forests loses all of its natural value, and in turn becomes virtually useless and potentially dangerous.
Moreover, deforestation destroys the atmosphere and can be linked to climate change and global warming. The climate of the earth has been increasingly changing in a drastic manner, and the fault is deforestation. The evidence is shown by various conservation scientists. This evidence is that “the scientific mainstream guardedly predicted gradual change, with palpable effects in the mid-term; increasingly scientists find the signs of climate change manifest in real and present hurricanes, melting polar ice caps, and drought in the Amazon” (Moutinho, 2005).
The climate of the earth is becoming more heated as the shade and absorbing powers of trees are being destroyed. This lack of circulation allows the sun to shine hotly on previously protected land, making it hotter overall. Also, deforestation allows for the release of harmful chemicals into the atmosphere, damaging essential protective areas, such as the Ozone layer. In a study of how deforestation affects carbon dioxide, it was found that "global deforestation could theoretically add two to four times more CO2 to the atmosphere than could be subtracted by reforestation of cleared areas” (Prentice, 1998).
This study compares carbon emissions from deforestation to attempting to fix it through reforestation. It was found that deforestation is more harmful than reforestation is helpful. That means that man cannot take back the deforested land and the resulting carbon emissions. It is true that other plants need carbon dioxide for photosynthesis and oxygen release, which helps humanity as well. However, as deforestation is occurring, it is driving the carbon dioxide levels to the point of pollution, and the plants are suffocating. In turn, this results in less oxygen circulating the atmosphere, creating a dangerous situation for mankind. This raises the question as to whether mankind is an endangered species or not. Lastly, deforestation's effects on the atmosphere can lead to water level issues in rivers and lakes. A study run by the Woods Hole Research Center experimented this. They found that "at the largescale, atmospheric feedbacks may significantly reduce precipitation regionally and, if larger than the local ET changes, may decrease water yield, runoff and discharge” (Coe, 2009).
These atmospheric feedbacks due to deforestation decrease the water level overall by blocking out precipitation from happening. For third world countries, this is dangerous as they rely on lakes and rivers for irrigation as well as drinking water. Not only this, but runoff is important as it keeps the lakes and rivers full and running. Less precipitation means runoff does not occur, which in turn reduces overall water levels. The atmosphere is in danger due to deforestation. As the atmosphere is being depleted, the risk of living on Earth becomes increasingly dangerous. Most importantly, deforestation is a big threat to the Earth's biodiversity and various species. Many examples of deforestation are happening in small regions with concentrate forests. Within these concentrated forests, it is seen that “many species are so specialized to microhabitats within the forest that they can only be found in small areas. Their specialization makes them vulnerable to extinction” (Lindsey, 2007). As these regions are being deforested, these specialized species are becoming endangered, and in many cases, extinct. The small ecosystems being run are slowly getting destroyed. In addition to this, many species are being forced to live in these deforested areas. This is dangerous, as the instincts of many animals are removed with the depletion of the trees, making them incredibly vulnerable. Many of the species living in deforested areas or being forced to move into a new habitat are destined for extinction. There is a big problem with species becoming extinct. This problem lies in the gene pool of these species. This is recognized, and "hidden in the genes of plants, animals, fungi, and bacteria that have not even been discovered yet may be cures for cancer and other diseases or the key to improving the yield and nutritional quality of foods—which the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization says will be crucial for feeding the nearly ten billion people the Earth will likely need to support in coming decades” (Lindsey, 2007). Removing these species threatens humanity as well. As the human population grows, the animal and plant population is required to grow as well to keep up. However, this is not the case as deforestation is killing species we know very little to nothing about, as well as discovered species that can be crucial to survival too.
Furthermore, attempts have been made to save forests, called reforestation. Tree plantations are created to make up for the loss of deforested areas. Many people are in support of this, as it seems like a great idea at the surface. However, it does not cover up the damage it does to biodiversity. In a study of the negative effects of REDD-plus (an organization devoted to reforestation), it was determined that “Forest plantations are generally much poorer in biodiversity than natural forests and often do not provide comparable local socioeconomic benefits” (Christophsen, 2011). These socioeconomic benefits include things such as pollution control and natural disaster prevention. In short, while forest plantations can be great to keep tree species alive and well, they end up being dangerous to the animal kingdom, plant kingdom, and especially humankind. The worst part of all of this is that many federal governments around the world are not realizing the issues of the deforestation occurring, and therefore are not successfully preventing it. This is especially shown in the Brazilian government. They are doing very little to protect the Amazon, and the Amazon rainforest is the world's largest rainforest, and a key factor to all of the facts previously discussed. The federal government in Brazil has put protections on a mere 18.69% of the Amazon. They are allowing the remaining 83.31% to be used for various forms and reasons of deforestation. (Sellier, 2007). If all 83.31% of the forest was all depleted, the results on biodiversity and the global ecosystem would be incredibly drastic. All in all, deforestation creates more harm to biodiversity than anything else happening in the modern world. As more and more species are becoming extinct, deforestation is the key factor to this, and the results are dangerous to the entire earth.
In conclusion, deforestation causes domino effects that pose a threat not only to mankind, but to the shrinking animal kingdom as well. It ruins the soil of the previous plot that the forest laid upon. Not only this, but it is ruining the atmosphere by replacing a lot of oxygen with dangerous carbon dioxide emissions, threatening man's future on earth. Lastly, the government is not doing anything to protect and preserve the species that could potentially be critical for survival. Overall, deforestation is one of the biggest threats to the future of the globe, and the future of humanity.