The history of deforestation probably dates back to the first felling activity that was ever carried out during pre-historical times to accommodate a population that thrived along the fringe of a forested area. The reasons for the preference could have been easier access to forest products, easy hunting ground, notably more precipitation around the area that aided agrarian pursuits or even anthropomorphism. Whatever the reasons behind the activity being initiated, it has assumed alarming proportions today and is threatening the ecosystem and delicate balance between man, nature and life-supporting atmosphere. If current efforts to save trees globally do not prove successful the future of woodland habitats is dire.
There are a number of reasons why large scale deforestation is still being executed. These causes include the primary notion that forested land is not as economically viable as farmland. The other causes behind deforestation include:
- Need to increase land for settlements and urbanization.
- Timber, for industrial use and as fuel.
- Large-scale conversion into agricultural grounds, corruption and unequal distribution of wealth.
- Experimentation with forestry.
We have claimed much of our forest cover to accommodate growing populations and for industrial purposes in recent years. The logging and/or burning of trees for fuel and to create pasture and plantation lands has in turn created a monster in the form of depleting forest cover and a major climate change. Today, infringement of forest land to accommodate human settlements has witnessed the razing or felling of trees without timely address of sufficient reforestation.
Deforestation has not only resulted in irreversible damage to the natural habitat of many wildlife species, but has also resulted in loss of biodiversity and increase in aridity. Forest cover that is razed to meet the demand for timber within different industrial segments has degraded ‘green’ lands into useless ‘waste’ lands.
Disregard and lax management of our forest cover threatens the survival of many already endangered species and has caused drastic changes in global climate. Desertification and the relocation of numerous indigenous people are the result of deforestation. Deforestation results in permanent habitat loss and the subsequent irreversible loss of thousands of species that enrich the wildlife and ecosystem on the planet.
Statistics on Deforestation:
Statistics reveal that the rapid rate of deforestation, globally, springs from illegal logging operations. The biodiversity of the Amazon is threatened more than ever with the rise in statistics revealing that by 2030 the region would be reduced to a mere 10% of what it is today! Satellite images retrieved prove that the rate of tropical deforestation is down by yet another 23%. The United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization or UNFAO states that the rapid declines could bring the global forest cover to the size of the Asia Sub-continent by 2050!
Every year more than 8.5 million hectares of tropical rainforests are being razed. Environmental groups are targeting the development and implementation of an educational program to enable those responsible for the damage to decipher the difference between forest types and unclaimed, common land. More than 12 million hectares of forest land is lost to urbanization or allied activities each year. This has resulted in a rapid global decline in some regions. For example:
- In Nigeria 81% of its original forest cover is now permanently lost.
- The tropical rainforests of Brazil are less by 90-95%.
- The forests of Central America are down by two-thirds lowlands, since 1950.
- Countries like India, Mexico, Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Myanmar, China, Sri Lanka, the Congo and Ghana have lost much more than 50% of their rainforest cover.
- Harvesting of forest cover has left Afghanistan with a little over 25% forests throughout the country
Facts about Deforestation:
Deforestation affects the water cycle. Trees absorb groundwater and release the same into the atmosphere during transpiration. With the loss of medium for this release, the climate automatically changes to a drier one and reduction in not only the atmospheric moisture, but also the water table.
Deforestation reduces soil quality and results in soil erosion and flooding. The land’s capacity to hold ground water shrinks with the depleting forest cover. Deforested areas witness surface runoff and increased sub-surface flow.
The absence of trees leads to increase salinity in the soil cover and thus, affects the agricultural activity that is carried on in such regions. Tree roots not only bind fertile soil, but also the underlying bedrock. Deforestation results in an increased risk of landslides, that not only claims the alluvial soil, but also threatens the lives of people inhabiting the cleared region.
Forests support biodiversity and foster conservation of medicinal products like honey, resin and herbs. Deforestation destroys genetic variations and results in a permanent loss of various rare plant, animal and insect species.
Damage to forests, believe it or not, affects every citizen’s living standard. Over-utilization of forest products and logging has resulted in creased dependency and in turn is exposing us to environmental issues associated with the large scale deforestation in the absence of an afforestation program in place.