Deforestation is an issue that has been plaguing several of the world’s forests for decades as farmers clear land for agriculture, loggers look to make money off the trees and countries clear large swathes in order to accommodate additional development. Whilst some deforestation is called for, there has been an increase in illegal logging or poor development practices that have resulted in a range of issues.
Although countries like Norway, who commit to zero deforestation and pay other countries handsomely for protecting large forested areas, are leading the charge, others, like Brazil and Australia continue to clear land and an unprecedented rate. Whilst some of this deforestation is caused by government policy, a lot is also caused by illegal operations seeking to make a quick buck – but what is the harm in reducing forest cover?
Is it estimated that forests cover about 30% of the world’s landmasses, within those forests rest 80% of the Earth’s land animals and plants. Every year, an area the size of England (130,000 km2 / 50,000 mi2) is routinely cleared, with an obvious negative impact on local biodiversity. However, these forests also provide another major service – it produces large amount of oxygen and absorbs an equally large amount of CO2.
This means that apart from reducing the overall biodiversity in the local environment, it also reduces the efficiency of forests in being able to process greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Forests are essentially giant carbon sinks, and deforestation is having the similar effect of unplugging said sink and letting the carbon out. It is for this reason that many scientists and concerned citizens are pushing for rainforests and other major wooded areas to be more protected.
However, the negative effects of deforestation don’t stay there. Soil degradation and reduction of available water mean that many areas that have suffered from deforestation can become barren deserts, further degrading local ecology. Removing larger trees reduces canopy cover, which can wreak havoc with temperatures within the forests and affecting both plants and animals alike.
There are many different sustainable forestry practices that can be put into effect to both reduce deforestation and fulfil the need for products and land but are often times highly regulated and expensive. That being said, sustainable forestry has had success across the world and governments are exploring the possibility to increase its size and range in order to protect their own natural resources and satisfying industrial and economic needs.