Deforestation, “the permanent destruction of forests in order to make the land available for other uses” (LifeScience, 2018), is moving at such an alarming pace that all of the world’s forests could be diminished in just 100 years if this trend continues.1 Roughly 18 million acres of forests are lost each year, and global tree loss reached a record high of 73.4 million acres in 2016.1 This loss of trees means not only the loss of wildlife habitats, but also the loss of a significant oxygen source, and an aid in a healthy water cycle.1 The loss of habitats leads directly to species extinction, as it deprives animals of their main source of food, water, and shelter. 80% of the earth’s land animals live in forests, so naturally the destruction of forests has begun to greatly decrease the worldwide population of many species, specifically the amur leopard, Asian elephant, and bonobo.1,2,3 Additionally, because trees are such an important source of oxygen, losing them means additional CO2 buildup in the atmosphere, which is a greenhouse gas known to be a significant contributing factor to global climate change.1,2 It has become evident that deforestation is contributing to climate change as much as other, more well-known factors, like the burning of fossil fuels. Trees are also important to water cycles as they “absorb rain fall and produce water vapor that is released into the atmosphere” (LifeScience, 2018), as well as lessen water pollution and maintain balance between the water on land and in the atmosphere.1,2 Major causes for deforestation include the production of palm oil, wood, paper products, urbanization purposes, and to make room for cattle ranching.1,3
The act of reforestation, which is simply the mass planting of trees, is thought, by many, to be the best/only solution to the issue of deforestation.1 It is believed that reforestation efforts would be able to “[restore] the ecosystem services provided by forests including carbon storage, water cycling and wildlife habitat, [reduce] the buildup of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, [rebuild] wildlife habitats” (LifeScience, 2018).1 There are many efforts being put forth by organizations/non-profits with these specific goals in mind, which provides hope that this damage may be reversible, and that we may, in fact, be able to counteract the effects of deforestation.
An image of a soy field that has replaced a large portion of a tropical rainforest (LifeScience, 2018).
An image of what once used to be a forest, but what is now the stumps of many trees that have been cut down for pal oil production (World Wildlife Fund, 2019).
- LifeScience, “Deforestation: Facts, Causes & Effects,” April 3, 2018, https://www.livescience.com/27692-deforestation.html
- World Wildlife Fund, “Deforestation and Forest Degradation,” Accessed June 14, 2019, https://www.worldwildlife.org/threats/deforestation-and-forest-degradation
- National Geographic, “Deforestation explained,” February 7, 2019, https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/global-warming/deforestation/