What is Deforestation?

Deforestation is one of the many causes of global warming, but what is deforestation? This page will give you an insight into the causes and effects of deforestation as well as some interesting, but rather disturbing deforestation facts. You don't have to be any sort of scientist to understand our simple deforestation definition either. Sadly deforestation is not a new topic and it is also one that is not going anywhere either, however it is not something that many people are fully aware of. It is responsible for the loss of plant and animal life to a huge degree and a big contributory factor to global warming, and you will find out why on this page. One of the key aspects we have also covered is why trees are important.

Deforestation definition

First of all it makes sense to answer the key question, 'what is deforestation?', and we will do this by providing you with a simple deforestation definition. Following this we are going to point out the importance of trees by answering the question 'why are trees important?' as this highlights just why large scale deforestation is so detrimental to the environment.

Deforestation is the full or large scale removal of a forest, or area of tress, in order to clear land for human development, or to use the trees as fuel or timber.

Why are trees important?

With deforestation being the removal of trees we thought it vital to point out why this is such a bad way, and the best way to do this is to highlight the importance of trees.

The trees on our planet are one of the single most important living organisms responsible for life as we know it. They play a pivotal role in the survival of not only animals but the environment in general, and more importantly humans like you and I. Trees are essential for filtering carbon dioxide from the air and they provide homes to millions of different species across the world, from birds to worms. They are also part of the natural beauty of many landscapes across the world. However, despite all of these factors their numbers are being significantly reduced by deforestation, it is believe in excess of half of the world's tress have been destroyed due to deforestation caused by the human race.

What are the causes of deforestation?

Now that we have highlighted what deforestation is and why trees are important, we come to another important question, what causes deforestation? Well the answer to this question is plain and simply WE do, the human race. The main words that stick out in our definition of deforestation are 'human development', as this is essentially the reason why deforestation happens. This is to remove something natural to make way for something required for human activity. But why do humans cause deforestation, what is the actual point in removing large areas of forest and woodland? Below we have highlighted the main causes of deforestation, or reasons if that is a better way of putting it. We have separated the natural causes of deforestation to the human deforestation causes.

It is accurate to say that the main deforestation causes are for short term economic gain, however the damage that it causes could potentially be a long term problem.

Negative causes of deforestation:

  • Trees are cut down to provide: Timber for building materials, paper, furniture, pencils.
  • Deforestation occurs in order to make room for humans to build on the land.
  • Areas of forest are removed in order to make way for land used to keep cattle.
  • Areas of forest are cut down to make way for mining activity.
  • Trees are felled in order to create firewood.
  • Deforestation allows wood to be turned into charcoal that is then used as fuel.
  • Trees are cut down in order to make way for roads.
  • With the number of humans on this planet increasing people need places to live and areas of forest are destroyed in order to make room for them to be housed.

Semi-positive causes of deforestation

  • Deforestation makes way for land required to grow crops

Natural causes of deforestation

  • Acid rain can cause deforestation
  • Wildfires in dry areas can wipe out large areas of forest

We hope that the causes of deforestation have been made clear in this section. We will next go on to talk about the effects that deforestation has on the environment.

What are the effects of deforestation?

The effects of deforestation are devastating to the environment in many ways. In this section we are going to list and explain the seven main deforestation effects for you so that you can see just what is happening in certain parts of the world and consequences that follow.

Although deforestation happens in order to benefit the human race, all of the subsequent impacts are adverse to the planet that we live on. It is quite shocking that despite the terrible impacts of deforestation that we have shown below, this continues to happen and vast areas of rainforest and woodland being destroyed every year.

Loss of biodiversity

The term 'biodiversity means the variety of life in the world or in a particular habitat, or ecosystem. There are certain areas of the world where biodiversity is very unique, for example rainforests house almost 90 per cent of all living species on the planet. Deforestation is severely damaging the size of the rainforests in the world and as a result is killing hundreds of different species every day. This means that living organisms such as plants and animals are being wiped out as a species all of the time. The animals that do survive have had their natural habitat removed and if they can't migrate or adapt they will die out. This has already been a catastrophic effect of deforestation and will only continue to kill life on our planet.

Climate change

As we have explained on our main page and also our climate change page, global warming is caused predominantly due to the emission of certain greenhouse gases into the earth's atmosphere. Deforestation is only going to make this worse because it is removing huge amounts of plants and trees that would otherwise be able to absorb carbon dioxide in the air. In addition to this, when trees are cut down during the deforestation process they are also burned, or left to rot, and this means that the carbon that is stored in them is released into the air and thus the atmosphere. Also with deforestation clearing the way for areas for massive amounts of cattle to graze that are reared for certain human purposes, more methane is being produced into the atmosphere from as a waste product from the cattle. This is a very adverse effect of deforestation.

Flooding

Many forests in the world do a great job in absorbing and storing large volumes of water when there is heavy rain. When these very same forests are destroyed because of deforestation this ceases to happen on the necessary scale and can cause flooding to local areas.

Destruction of culture

In many areas of South America where deforestation is a big problem, indigenous people still live in the forests and rainforests. By taking away huge areas we are destroying their culture and taking away their homes.

Soil erosion

Huge areas of land that are otherwise covered with a thriving forest and ecosystem are exposed to the sun as a result of deforestation. This leaves the soil dry and subsequently infertile due to important nutrients being lost. Furthermore, what little nutrients are left are washed away by further rainfall leaving the land baron. If new trees are planted there they are unable to draw the necessary nutrients from the ground to thrive. This means that not only are huge areas of forest lost but also areas of land that is left behind as a result, as nothing can be done with it. This is an incredibly serious deforestation effect as at the very least the removal of forests should be to make way for land that can be cultivated.

Problems with the water cycle

Trees are an important part of the water cycle as they extract water from the ground with their roots, and this is subsequently released into the atmosphere. Huge volumes of water inside the rainforest ecosystem will stay inside plants. However, if trees are felled then the climate in that area will become drier.

Promotion of extreme weather

Trees do a good job in breaking wind, without them in place it is possible for strong winds and such as hurricanes and tornadoes to brew and then wreak havoc. Just look at the trouble hurricane Irene recently caused across North America.

We hope that the above effects of deforestation have highlighted just how destructive it is, and the huge impact that it has on the environment.

Deforestation facts

It is one thing knowing the answer to the key question 'what is deforestation?' and then learning about the causes and effects of deforestation, but some of the facts are quite another thing and really do promote just how catastrophic deforestation is to the environment.

  • Rain forests such as the Atlantic forest in Brazil used to be huge spanning an area in excess of one million square kilometers, this has been reduced in recent times to approximately fiver per cent of it's real size. This is happening to forests and rainforest all over the world.
  • As we have previously mentioned in our effects of deforestation section, over half of the world's trees have been destroyed over time due to human activity.
  • We are all responsible in a sense for deforestation as we buy wooden furniture and use paper, the increased need for these products results in further deforestation.
  • 90 per cent of rainforest in West Africa has been destroyed due to deforestation in the last one hundred years.
  • Many large and powerful governments are responsible for the destruction of forests across the world and this makes it impossible for anyone to prevent this from happening as they always have the final say in the matter.
  • Seven countries in the world are where approximately 60 per cent of the total deforestation across the world occur, these are Brazil, USA, Canada, China, Indonesia, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Russia.

There are plenty more deforestation facts that raise the same concerns, how long will it be until all of the forests across the world will be gone, and what will the long term implications be? Considering statistically over half of the world's trees have already been cut down it stands to reason that you can assume it is only a matter of time until the other half go the same way. If you are still wondering why are trees important then you may have missed our section further up the page all about the importance of trees.

If you didn't know what deforestation is and the terrible consequences that stem from it, then you sure do now after reading the past couple of sections.

More Information

There are various other aspects of human activity that cause damage to the natural environment, so now that you have received a comprehensive explanation as to what the effects of deforestation are and also the causes of deforestation, you may wish to check out some of our other pages to learn more about these. Our main page is all about what global warming is and we also have further pages on greenhouse gases and what climate change is. We really do hope that our answer to the question 'what is global deforestation?' and the deforestation facts that we have provided have been useful to you.

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