2 Jun 2022


Significance of Deforestation

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Destruction of forestland to avail land for other uses is historically common. For example, most of the indigenous forests across the United States have disappeared since 1600. However, there has been accelerated deforestation, especially of tropical forests, in the last half century. Deforestation has several causes, some of which emanate from commercial activities and poverty. Historically, most of the destruction happened without any controls and the same is true of modern deforestation despite awareness campaigns to discourage the same. Therefore, it is worth considering the significance of deforestation on business and society.

It is difficult to ascertain current global deforestation levels for available data is inaccurate and subject to interpretation. Generally, there is consensus on the definition of deforestation along with its consequences. However, there is a difference of interpretation on the definition of forests. For example, the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) considers a commercial plantation for timber production a forest (Chakravarty et al., 2012). This means that a natural forest can be used for commercial timber production, which will result in the loss of a natural forest and deforestation. However, FAO will not record the deforestation but as loss of a natural forest. Moreover, the organization does not classify trees producing non-timber products as forests yet it registers rubber plantations as forests. Therefore, deforestation entails the conversion of forestland for alternative use like agriculture while forest degradation is the destruction of a forest’s ecosystem without clearing the affected area.

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Forests cover about one-third of the world where developed countries experience much of the global forest cover. Moreover, forest cover remained unchanged in most of North America while Europe and Asia saw growth of forest cover. However, there was deforestation in South America and Africa. Therefore, most of the global deforestation affects developing countries in the tropical ecosystem (Miller & Spoolman, 2016). Scholars observe the deforestation in developing countries as a modern phenomenon to which they attribute several causes.

Saving forests necessitate an understanding of the causes of deforestation; therefore, it is critical to distinguish between agents and causes of deforestation. Agents are those individuals who actively reduce forest cover while causes are the different motivations leading them to deforestation. A literature analysis reveals that the agents can also be classified as direct causes while their motivations can be classified as indirect, cognizant of the difficulty of quantifying their impact. Moreover, there are two general causes of deforestation (Chakravarty et al., 2012). First, the use of former forestland for agriculture, urbanization, and infrastructure development are indicative of competition between humanity and other species for available land. Secondly, the prevailing economic systems have no appreciation for the value of forests and the overall environment. Hence, decision makers implement choices affecting the tropical forests without knowing the importance of such forests. Indeed, such decisions are mostly under the influence of fiscal considerations. Therefore, deforestation has both direct and indirect causes.

There are several direct causes of deforestation in tropical forests; the major ones include agriculture, mining, and tourism. Agriculture accounts for more than 60% of deforestation, which is more than urbanization, infrastructure development, and fires combined (Miller & Spoolman, 2016). Most populations living around such forests are economically vulnerable and practice subsistence agriculture. Such farmers move into the forests in search of more arable land when there is degradation on their previous parcels. On the other hand, rapid urbanization and population growth have increased the need for agricultural production, which has also led to the conversion of more forestland for agricultural use.

The amount of land used in mining activities alone might not make it a primary cause of deforestation. However, mining involves the acquisition of land for such activities. There have been several cases involving mining companies acquiring and clearing parts of reserved forests for mining activities. Moreover, road construction connecting the mines to urban centers gradually encourages the practice of agriculture, urbanization, and infrastructure development. Lack of adequate management for certain tourism strategies lead to deforestation. Most national governments allow the unchecked establishment of eco-tourism lodges for revenue collection purposes (Chakravarty et al., 2012). However, such developments lead to excessive tourism and infrastructure development, which creates more deforestation as both destroy delicate forest eco systems.

Overpopulation and poverty are among the main indirect causes of deforestation with rapid population growth having an overarching effect. Population growth increases the demand for food, which increases the need for agricultural land for food production. Such developments lead to deforestation for agricultural purposes (Chakravarty et al., 2012). In addition, population growth increases the exploitation of natural resources especially from developed economies because an individual in such an economy consumes more resources than one in a developing economy. Generally, managing population growth is a significant challenge to creating an overarching sustainable environmental program.

There is a correlation among poverty, overpopulation, and deforestation. Most of the poverty results from the greed of developed nations and developing countries elites who want to emulate them. Moreover, such elites own most of the land in developing countries, a situation that creates an artificial pressure for human settlement (Miller & Spoolman, 2016). Therefore, small-scale farmers have to practice subsistence farming in the forest due to poverty and the unequal land distribution. Lack of proper land reform facilitated by the elite’s hold on power necessitates unchecked deforestation. Therefore, such farmers will continue clearing forestland for agriculture and settlement.

The effects of deforestation are economic and social. Scholars estimate the loss from deforestation to be about US $ 45 billion annually (Chakravarty et al., 2012). Moreover, said destruction erodes future revenue streams from the sustainable management of timber and non-timber resources. Socially, this phenomenon ends social and cultural institutions among indigenous populations, which culminate in social and land conflicts. However, the loss of ecological services like the prevention of erosion, water treatment, and flood control are the immediate effects of deforestation.

There are several strategic solutions to the challenge of deforestation. One possible solution is the control of population growth in tropical countries. This will enable such populations to access increased income per capita and literacy levels reducing the demand for forestland for settlement and agriculture. Secondly, international organizations use monetary incentives to encourage developing nations to control and prevent deforestation (McFarland 2013).

Although the destruction of forests to avail land for other uses is not new, the rapid nature of such actions over the last half century has raised concerns among scholars and international organizations. There are several direct and indirect causes of deforestation. However, there is a connection between varying economic statuses, population growth, and deforestation. Moreover, this loss of forest cover has both economic and social consequences. Collectively, such developments have led international organizations to strategic solutions to manage deforestation.


Chakravarty, S., Ghosh, S. K., Suresh, C. P., Dey, A. N., & Shukla, G. (2012). Deforestation: causes, effects and control strategies.  Global perspectives on sustainable forest management 1 , 1-26.

McFarland, B. (2013).  REDD+ and business sustainability: A guide to reversing deforestation for forward thinking companies . London: DoSustainability.

Miller, G. T., & Spoolman, S. (2016).  Environmental science . Pacific Grove, CA Cengage Learning: National Geographic Learning

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StudyBounty. (2023, September 15). Significance of Deforestation.


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