Deforestation: Causes and Effects on Ecological Balance
What is Deforestation?
The destruction of natural forests because of cutting trees, logging, making space for cattle grazing, mining, extraction of oil, building dams and population expansion is known as deforestation. As per the reports of Natural Conservancy, logging accounts for 32 million acres of earth’s natural forests every year. By 2011 half of earth’s forests disappeared. A major part of this loss took place in the last 50 years alone. Forest goods and most importantly the wood, has been the essential need of the human civilization for over centuries and continues to be the main source of several activities that a man performs in his day to day proceedings. For example, paper is indispensible part of personal or official means of conducting the dealings. Invariably, this would necessitate human beings to source the wood from the forests leading to deforestation.
CAUSES OF DEFORESTATION
Timber Production – Need for the production of timber is the prime cause of deforestation. The timber is used as important construction material and also forms an important source of raw material for paper production. To make the timber products cheaper, governments allowed deforestation without realizing the fact that it would destroy ecological balance.
Division of Habitation – Construction of roads through the forests leads to division of habitation of animals, birds and other species. Once the roads are put to use, they pose a barrier for free movement of wildlife. Although, a small portion of forest land would have been used by felling trees, the division of habitation would be strongly felt by wildlife leading to imbalance. Further, such construction of roads provides easy access to logging and encourages uncontrolled activity of timber production.
Cut and Blaze Farming – Poor nations and developing countries tend to practice farming by claiming forest land to grow crops by cutting and setting the forest areas fire claiming that the forest land is fertile due to forest’s flora and fauna. This way large tracts of forest land is deforested for cultivation. Unfortunately, most of these countries do not realize that the land itself is responsible for its fertility rather than the forest mass. Cut and blaze farming is possibly sustainable provided density of population is below 8 per square kilometer. But in reality, more than 30 people habitat a given square kilometer leads to the destruction of complete balance.
Deforestation for Grass and Land Development – Grass lands are needed for cattle feeding and developing the cattle growing industry. In order to raise the cattle cheaply, some counties followed the deforestation route at it is and cheap allowing local industry to meet the demand of multinationals for cheaper animal products.
Forest as Source of Fire Wood – Less privileged nations, because of poverty and poor economic conditions, are forced to use forest as a principle source of fire wood for its people. They tend to deforest for fuel wood production leading to large tracts of forest land becoming barren. To replenish the deforested area it would take not less than 12 to 15 years but such duration greatly imbalances the forest sustainability. Besides, it is a widely recognized fact that fire wood as fuel is the most pollution producing material.
Effects of Deforestation:
There are several effects of deforestation on earth’s climate and nature.
Atmospheric – For global warming deforestation is the major contributor. Deforestation causes of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. As the concentration of carbon dioxide increases, a layer forms in the atmosphere that traps sun radiation. This radiation gets converted to heat and causes global warming. In other terms it is known as greenhouse effect. (Know what are the greenhouse gases) Deforestation also influences trees to release carbon stores. Scientists say that almost 1.5 billion tons of carbon is released each year by tropical deforestation.
Hydrological – Water cycle in the nature gets affected by deforestation. Trees pull up ground water with the help of their roots and then release the water vapour into the atmosphere. If trees are reduced, the water vapour content in the atmosphere is reduced and it results in drier climate. It also results in soil erosion which may lead to landslides or floods.
Reducing forest cover reduces the capacity of the soil to perspire. It means the absence of trees can influence the quantity of water on the land, in the atmosphere or in the soil. It affects the ecological cycle.
Soil – Forests as such have a very low soil loss rate. It is at approximately two metric tons per square kilometer. Deforestation results in soil erosion because tress can bind the soil together. If trees are removed from steep slopes, it may result in landslides.
Biodiversity – Deforestation results in the decline in biodiversity and many species of living organisms are becoming extinct. Forests support wildlife habitat and the tropical rainforests contribute to 80%of the biodiversity. The removal of trees has led to the degradation of environment and biodiversity.
Because of rainforest deforestation, we are losing an average of 137 plants, insects and animal species every day. It will account to almost 50,000 species over an year. There is a serious threat to several endangered species. It is estimated that almost 90 percent of predicted extinctions will take place within next forty years.
Economic – Deforestation and its effects can change the living standards of the people. Human societies utilize timber and wood from forests for building houses and making paper. On an average it is estimated that three million people depend on wood for cooking and other purposes. Rapid increase in economic growth also has the impact on forests. As population increases, there is demand for new homes and empty spaces. Roads are laid to expand cities and it results in the reduction of forest cover.
Reduction in emissions – Several international organizations along with United Nations and World Bank have been implementing various programs to curb deforestation. Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) advices and encourages developing countries to reduce deforestation.
Farming – New farming technologies should be invented so that the existing resources are not depleted. Crop yield per acre of land should be increased so that with limited land more produce can be harvested.
Monitoring deforestation – Satellite data can be used to effectively assess the deforested areas. Positive steps by all governments will result in maintaining the forest cover.
Reforestation – In East Asian countries reforestation and afforestation are increasing slowly. Between 2000 and 2005, 1 million hectares of lost forest area was again brought back to life. Depending on the latest trends, it is believed that by 2050 there will an increase in forest cover globally by 10%.
Significance of Forests for Ecological Balance
It is well acknowledged fact that forests assume significance for variety of causes. In the first place many would opine that forests should be conserved for upcoming generations to benefit from. While it is true but the second and the most important motivation comes from the need for providing territory for large number of animals, birds and other species which are vital part of now well recognized earth’s ecological system, to make their habitation. Concurrently, forests perform a very fundamental task of natural oxygen generation. Over and above, they help in preventing land degradation leading to formation of deserts. Last but not the least, the forests are the only resourceful places for timber production and there is a continuous need for it as construction material, base fuel for heating and paper! Nonetheless, deforestation has been the biggest environment issue which continued to draw attention of the world.