Deforestation, clearance, clearcutting or clearing is the removal of a forest or stand of trees from land which is then convert to a non-forest use like farming, ranches, or urban use. The most concentrated deforestation occurs in tropical rainforests. About 31% of Earth’s land surface is covered by forests. The removal of trees without sufficient reforestation has resulted in habitat damage, biodiversity loss, and aridity. It has adverse impacts on biosequestration of atmospheric carbon dioxide. Deforested regions typically incur significant adverse soil erosion and frequently degrade into wasteland. Its important to note that more than half of all plant and land animal species in the world live in tropical forests.
Forests have the following functions:
- Regulation of the water cycle
- Production of soil
- Providing habitat for animals
- Providing most of our oxygen
- Maintain the oxygen and carbon dioxide (CO2)
- Balance in the atmospher
- Regulation of temperature
- Prevention of soil erosion
- Protection against natural disasters
- Important for carbon sequestration
When the trees burn or rot, the carbon in them returns to the atmosphere in the form of carbon dioxide. Since carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas, deforestation causes global warming. Tropical deforestation is responsible for about 20% of world greenhouse gas emissions. More than 3.6 million hectares of virgin tropical forest was lost in 2018.
Deforestation is ongoing and is shaping climate and geography. It affects wind flows, water vapour flows and absorption of solar energy thus clearly influencing local and global climate. Trees extract groundwater through their roots and release it into the atmosphere. When part of a forest is remove, the trees no longer transpire this water, resulting in a much drier climate. Deforestation reduces the content of water in the soil and groundwater as well as atmospheric moisture. The dry soil leads to lower water intake for the trees to extract. Deforestation reduces soil cohesion, so that erosion, flooding and landslides ensue.
Deforestation on lowland plains moves cloud formation and rainfall to higher elevations. It disrupts normal weather patterns creating hotter and drier weather thus increasing drought, desertification, crop failures, melting of the polar ice caps, coastal flooding and displacement of major vegetation regimes. Since the tropical rainforests are the most diverse ecosystems on Earth and about 80% of the world’s known biodiversity could be found in tropical rainforests, removal or destruction of significant areas of forest cover has resulted in a degraded environment with reduced biodiversity.
The forest products industry is a large part of the economy in both developed and developing countries. Short-term economic gains made by conversion of forest to agriculture, or over-exploitation of wood products, typically leads to a loss of long-term income and long-term biological productivity. West Africa, Madagascar, Southeast Asia and many other regions have experienced lower revenue because of declining timber harvests. Illegal logging causes billions of dollars of losses to national economies annually.
Deforestation eliminates a great number of species of plants and animals which also often results in an increase in disease. Loss of native species allows new species to come to dominance. Often the destruction of predatory species can result in an increase in rodent populations which can carry plague. Additionally, erosion can produce pools of stagnant water that are perfect breeding grounds for mosquitos, well known vectors of malaria, yellow fever, nipah virus, and more.