The task of defining a forest is simple; a cluster, group or a large area covered by trees. However, the definition of its antagonist deforestation varies from person to person, dictionary to dictionary and institution to institution. Nonetheless, it can be just put as the loss of significant forest cover in an area through natural events or human activities (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 2010). Of the two perpetrators, man is the most consistent and devastating to the existence of forests in the world and particularly in North America. Most loggers and logging companies fail to comprehend that the cutting down of trees has a bigger impact in the life cycle than they anticipate. Deforestation affects the existence of species, the rate of global warming, temperatures, climate and many other key external factors to human lives. Internally logging affects the lives of the communities that are dependent on the respective forest. As such this paper intends to reveal the causes of deforestation and expose their consequent ills.
Globally it is estimated that forests take as much as 30% of the Earth’s total surface. This may seem like a huge proportion to many. However, forest cover is depleting at an alarming rate (The Food and Agriculture Organization, (FAO), 2010). Scientists estimate that if the current trend continues there would be no rainforests by the end of a century. At the moment there only exists half the amount of rainforests that were existent initially. Considering the industrial revolution began only 200 years ago, to remove half of the rainforests in that time is certainly a big feat but not exactly a noble one. In America, it is assumed that the land had a supposed 4 000 000 square kilometers worth of forests before the arrival of the European immigrants, FAO suggests that currently this number has reduced by a quarter with about 3 000 000 of forest space remaining (2010). This is astonishing as most of these activities took pace prior to the 20 th century.
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There are many reasons as to why one would want to cut down a tree be it to make the roads, get timber or even increase the aesthetic value of a piece of land. However, to cut down an enormous amount of trees is the result of particular intentions by specific individuals and/or groups. The most common factors for the eradication of trees both globally and in the US are logging activities and agricultural encroachment. Man’s population is ever on the rise due to decreased mortality rates brought about by modern medicine. The effect of this rampant growth is the increased demand for food and its constituents (Bala et al., 2007). Per se traditional farms cannot cater for the high demand posed by such a huge population. This has forced farmers and food companies to eliminate forest land to increase the area for cultivation. Also, cash crops have had a significant role to play in deforestation mainly in 2 nd world or developing countries. Countries such as Brazil and Indonesia have cleared large tracts of land in the hope of gaining the profits that are attributed to selling oil crops
In the US, the case is far much different. The leading cause of deforestation in America is logging and other related activities. Bala et al. deduce that America is the primary consumer of paper and almost every other product that can be traced to the tree (2007). Due to this, there exists a huge number of logging companies that facilitate the cutting of down of trees which more often than not come from natural forests. Surprisingly it is not the action of these legitimate logging enterprises that has resulted in extensive but illegal logging activities (Bala et al., 2007). Illegal logging comes in two different forms. First, there is the instance where people and even companies cut down trees without any permission whatsoever that is they have no required permits or licenses. The second situation is whereby registered logging companies log more than what is stated in their permits. This second situation is tough to contain as it cannot be deduced if it occurs as there is no direct monitoring.
In another school of thought, natural factors also contribute to deforestation although not to a large extent. Calamities such as forest fires, earthquakes, droughts, storms and even volcanic eruptions may add a small although not negligible part towards deforestation. Due to the rarity at which such events take place researchers and scientists alike often disregard them as causes of deforestation.
Effects of Deforestation
The effects of deforestation impact three different spheres; the climate and environment, dependent species and lastly communities who rely on the forest for survival. To begin with deforestation has adverse effects on the atmosphere and climate overall. According to Bala et al., “ D eforestation affects the global climate both by releasing the carbon stored in the living plants and soils and by altering the physical properties of the planetary surface” (2007). We all understand the effects that Carbon (IV) oxide has on the environment. If not Carbon emissions lead to a warmer climate that results in unpredictable weather patterns, sea level rise and spread of diseases initially prone to warm areas only. On its own Carbonation leads to depletion of the ozone layer which provides a protective barrier against harmful sun and cosmic rays. In short words, the cutting down of trees in large scale alters with the Carbon cycle which is a delicate system although not many realize it. No wonder environmentalists keep on advocating for reforestation and afforestation as a means of curtailing global warming (Bala et al., 2007).
Furthermore, deforestation poses a threat to the existence of numerous species. It is believed that thousands of species have already been terminated by this environmental menace to date. FAO states that about 28 000 species will become extinct in the next 25 years if nothing is done to curb this peril (2010). So how exactly do species become extinct following deforestation? Forests and trees are the natural habitats to a large part of all animals and plants on earth. Therefore, a kind of dependence takes place among these species. The actions of one organism affect another in short such that when deforestation occurs in a particular area, this relationship ceases. Hence, the plants and animals lose their source of food, and if an individual species is located only in that particular sector, then their extinction ensues. A few examples of the species that are endangered because of deforestation include the Giant Panda, the Mountain Gorilla, and Bornean Orangutan.
Moreover, forest clearage impacts the lives of humans both directly and indirectly. Firstly deforestation affects the weather patterns this has a detrimental effect on nearby farmers. This would lead to lesser food production (Wolosin, Riddle, and Moses, 2011). And to hunters who depend on hunting as a source of income deforestation would lead to the death or migration of their prey. Thus, they would have to hunt harder or capture nothing at all. As earlier stated disforestation increases the level of Carbon gasses in the atmosphere; this has been attributed to an increase in respiratory and skin disorders. However, further research is ongoing regarding the relation between diseases and level of Carbon gasses in the air.
Regulatory Measures for Curbing Deforestation
The American government has been fundamental in formulating policies that quell the rate of deforestation both internally and externally (Wolosin, Riddle, and Moses, 2011). Internally the government regulates logging through the issuance of license permits to firms and individuals who have been thoroughly scrutinized. The Lacey Act, for example, prevents the US from importing illegal timber or other rainforest products in a bid to cut down on illegal logging. Furthermore, substantial penalties are enacted on those found guilty of these types of crimes.
Externally the US government tries to aid countries that are at risk of depleting their natural rainforests. Wolosin, Riddle, and Moses suggest that the government influences global deforestation in three ways (2011). The government does this by changing existing policies that affect the rainforest products that the country trades in, using knowledge and resources through various agencies to aid countries at risk and researching to increase data and develop methods to help in eliminating the problem. Also, many institutions are working tirelessly to reduce deforestation globally. According to Wolosin, Riddle & Morris (2011), these organizations include International Conservation Union (IUCN), The Forest Trust, the Rainforest Alliance, The Nature Conservancy (TNC), the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), the Sierra Club, Conservation International (CI) and the World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF).
To sum it all up, deforestation is detrimental not only to man’s life but the earth in general. As shown in the text above the act has adverse effects majority of which are negative. Some organizations although have taken a stand against deforestation. The IUCN, in particular, has been influential in how they deal with conservation of forests. Instead of just disregarding logging they aim to give nature-based solutions which sets them art from the rest. Evidently they have achieved numerous feats most notable of which being their contribution towards the World Charter for Nature that was adopted by the UN General Assembly. Getting back on the deforestation issue, I would recommend the creation of no logging zones and the intensification of permits that limit the amount of tree cutting an individual can do. Furthermore, people, in general, should opt to use alternatives to rainforest products in a bid to preserve them for the future. Deforestation is a vice that needs stopping, and it is only through the coordination between the government, organizations, loggers and the common man that it can be stopped.
Wolosin, M. S., Riddle, A., & Morris, D. F. (2011). A Whole-of-Government Approach to Reducing Tropical Deforestation. SSRN Electronic Journal SSRN Journal . doi:10.2139/ssrn.1977684
Bala, G., Caldeira, K., Wickett, M., Phillips, T. J., Lobell, D. B., Delire, C., & Mirin, A. (2007). Combined climate and carbon-cycle effects of large-scale deforestation. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 104 (16), 6550-6555. doi:10.1073/pnas.0608998104
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. (2010). Global forest resources assessment 2010: Main report . Rome: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.