The disappearance of trees, unquestioningly accepted as an indication of environmental degradation, evoked reactions ranging from disheartening feelings of powerlessness to various forms of cynicism (Kuchli, 1997 Page 8). Not only do forests support plants and animals; but they also have local and even global impact on ecosystem sustainability. It will be the object of this essay to analyze, based on a global scale, the patterns of deforestation. Also, a close examination will be made on a chosen area, in order to discover the various aspects of the impacts deforestation has made in this region.
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Forests are spread around the world in different varieties and climates. Around 8000 years ago there were 6 billion hectares of forest globally. At present, only half remain due to many different human influenced factors. Forests provide habitat to animals, provide watershed resources, support plant life, and are fundamental regulators of the environment.
Since the dawn of mankind, forests have been used for dwellings and fuel.
But as empire by empire passed by, the more demand for wood resources grew. Some forests today are gone completely because of past human activity, such as the Mediterranean, Middle-East, and Great Britain. Wars, ship-building, and various agricultural resources are some of the many human-influenced causes of deforestation.
Without the fertile forests, many issues will arise. These issues concern climate, vegetation, land, and biodiversity. Resiliency is a significant product of biodiversity. A world without this would be frail to the slightest touch; which would lead to the eventual collapse of ecosystems globally.
At present time, biodiversity (affected by human impacts) almost equals that of the extinctions of the past. Humans are vastly affected by deforestation, even though they are the main cause of this problem. Technology, politics, and economies also play contributing roles in deforestation.
By looking at the map, the highest amount of deforestation appears to be within most of the first world nations. As well, through rainforest area, South America, South-East Asia and several African nations all look like they have constant problems with deforestation. Russia and Mexico appear to be at quite low rates. In relation to these rates, the economies of mankind have a large role in deforestation. Commercial pastoralism, industrial logging, international trade, industrial production, and poverty and debt are all key economic factors in the destruction of forests.
Commercial pastoralism is a main cause of the destruction of tropical rain forests. Human-created pasturelands replace much of the delicate forest in Central America for the production of large-scale cattle rearing. This vast amount of beef output is due to the increasing demand for domestic expenditure (ex. Hamburgers); mostly from the North America region.
Industrial logging can be found almost everywhere in the world; from Canada to Russia. Through 1600 million cubic miles of forest (from industrial logging), 20% can be accounted in low-income nations, whereas 84% can be met in high-income nations (annually).
Timber as an international trade, is a valuable export among poorer nations, rather than the more financially set countries. But, the more wealthy-type nations of the world tend to have the technology to process these goods (for import/export). Japan, being the largest importer, has a great influence and dependence on the logging from the Asia-Pacific region.
Industrial production is encountered within any low-income tropical nation; striving to increase the returns of the logging production. To successfully do this, industries are required to provide export or manufactured goods. There is no real definite increase in the returns; but there is a great addition to the stress on the forests.
Another cause of deforestation (through the present economic status) is poverty and debt. Lowincome nations are mostly at fault concerning this factor. It is now generally recognized that the main cause of the destruction and degradation of tropical forests is the poverty of the people who live in and around the forests. (Collins, Sayer, & Whitmore, 1991). For domestic demands, food and fuel are extracted from the forests at an alarming rate.
The loss of forest means taking a large piece out of a running motor. It affects much more than what is exactly seen; both to natural and human environments. The forest feeds and nourishes all life on this planet in more ways than one.
Global warming is a great risk that deforestation contributes to. One quote states …release of this pool into the atmosphere through felling and burning could contribute substantially to global warming. (Anderson, 1990). In many countries, the process of the removal of trees is the slash and burn method. The present discharge of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere is rounded at around 1.6 gigatonnes. Also, this great release of carbon dioxide amounts to the increase of solar radiation. This means a fluctuating humidity factor, less evaporation, less precipitation, increased runoff, greater amounts of windspeeds, and an increase in the temperature of the soil; so in other words, the Greenhouse effect can take place. The cumulative damaging effects of human forest occupation, forest clearing by fire, and extreme drought caused by interannual climate variability…interact to destroy tropical forests. (Goldammer, 1999).
Another concern caused by deforestation is soil erosion and various types of land degradation. One quote states: …clearing and burning forests for pasture establishment produce substantial increases in soil fertility….but these increases are ephemeral… (Anderson, 1990). The clearing of forests reduces the amount of rain perforation with the soil and thus interferes with the proper amount and the nature of water movement in a given area suffering from deforestation (ex. Flooding and drought). As well, the soil chemistry of a distressed forest environment is vastly altered. This means that if an area of forest is disturbed, so too is the specific nutrient balance within that ecosystem.
Vegetation change is one more severe consequence to forest clearance. After deforestation takes place, regrowth in a rain forest, for example, takes around an astounding amount of 150 to 500 years. And, as well, regrowth does not mean that the original forest environment grows back. For example, in Britain, the once heavily forested areas now lie mostly bare, due to overgrazing of livestock. Even with less intensified use of the land, these areas remain bare.
The effect on people and the various cultures around the world are another consequence of deforestation. Indigenous peoples living within forests, using the land for their survival are permanently affected; and thus being assimilated into modern culture. The very way of life, survival, and the over-all culture of these people can be catastrophically altered. In fact, Brazil has lost an downhearted amount of 87 tribes between 1900 and 1950 (extinct).
South-east Asia is a site of major attraction of economic interest, mostly because of its rich, fruitful rainforest. Economic growth and demand for land is increasing day by day in the Asia-Pacific region. (Collins, Sayer, & Whitmore, 1991).
Several threats facing this region are logging, shifting cultivation, pesticides, and plantations. Some wildlife that can be found in this vicinity of the world are: tigers, orangutans, rhinoceroses, elephants, cobras, various bird species, crocodiles, and many more. Yet current patterns of development are depleting wildlife and its habitats at an alarming pace. (Collins, Sayer, & Whitmore, 1991).
Plant species are found in rich deposits in the Asia-Pacific region (ex. Rufflesia is the worlds largest flower; and can be found in this area of the world). Medicinal species of plants are another important factor to the positive impacts of these rainforests. In fact, 75% of India and 80% of China depend upon the healing powers of the some 6500 plant species in this area. Unfortunately, over-collection and the loss of habitat threaten all these plant species.
Shifting cultivation is a common practice used in this region, where slash and burn or swidden methods are used to release nutrients into the topsoil for short-term cultivation. The major problem of this is that the land nutrients will be used up and the land will be useless until recovery takes place.
Timber is the major product, but there are also plantation crops (rubber, oil, palm, tea, and coffee). The diplerocarp forests of South East Asia are today the largest source of hardwoods in international trade, but they are likely to be logged over within a decade or two. (Collins, Sayer, &Whitmore, 1991). Sadly enough, the balance and security of rainforests in this section of the world are failed through the lack of government support. It is clear from the rapid destruction, however, that something is wrong with either present government policies or with their implementation. (Collins, Sayer, & Whitmore, 1991).
The largest and most important solution to deforestation is to stop. Already 55% of the world s rainforest have been decimated. Currently, 40 hectares of rainforest a minute are destroyed. Wood product trade statistics are presently affected by the new consumer awareness and concern. Treaties cause a big response toward the recognition of deforestation and the serious aftermath (ex. 1992 Tropical Timber Labeling Act). Recycling is another recent attempt to cut down on the amount of waste and demand for new timber.
Also, an additional problem is that of external tension on external organizations. For example, environmentalists that are from large distances from the actual logging sites, actually know little of what is actually going on. They should understand, for example, that if international lending agencies simply pull out, massive invasions of Indian and forest reserves could occur. (Anderson, 1990). The withdrawal of interests in the various logging areas, believed by most environmentalists, in fact, does not help solve the problem; in fact, it worsens the problem. As stressed before, the education of the seriousness of the problem of deforestation is a helpful technique. But, interestingly enough, it is the people at the site of deforestation who need the teaching, rather than outside regions.
The preservation of the forests of the world should be a main goal for every government, using whatever means necessary. Prevention, however, is preferable to a cure….. (Collins, Sayer, & Whitmore, 1991).