What is Deforestation – An Overview

Forests cover almost 30 per cent land on this planet. The ecosystem they make plays an essential role in supporting life on earth. However, deforestation is the process of clearing earth’s forest on a massive scale. With the current rate of destruction, the world’s rainforests will completely disappear within the next hundred years.  

The deforestation meaning in simple words is the rapid cutting of trees and converting that land into a non-forest one. 

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Forestry and agriculture together are responsible for more than 24% greenhouse gas emissions, in turn making deforestation a significant contributor to climate change. 

In this article, we will discuss the significant deforestation solutions after assessing the causes behind it.

Importance of Forests

Some of the most vital service provided by forests are as follows.

  • Forests are the lungs of the earth as they provide an uninterrupted supply of oxygen, making life possible on earth.

  • They promote rainfall.

  • Trees create an oasis of shade by blocking sunlight and in urban areas tackle a severe issue like ‘heat island’ effect.  

  • Growth of the country hugely depends on its forests. Therefore, protecting them account for the best deforestation solution. 

 What is the Cause of Deforestation?

Several reasons contribute to the deforestation. Among them, two factors that wreak havoc are human activities and a few natural causes. 

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Fig: Country-wise causes of deforestation pie chart

Human Activities

People are indulging in deforesting the earth since the longest of time. Some of the most significant reasons are listed below

  1. Agriculture- Agricultural expansion is the most prominent causes of deforestation. According to FAO, it causes 80% of degradation of forests, and 33% of it happens because of subsistence agriculture in developing countries. 

However, industrial agriculture, like field crops and livestock are to be blamed as well. Growing Crops like soya bean, palm oil, cocoa and raising livestock for meat causes almost 44% of forest loss. For example, In Indonesia and Malaysia, trees are cut in rapid scale to produce palm oil.

  1. Logging – Both legal and illegal logging for wood fuel and expansion of roads accounts for deforestation. Loggers took away the valuable timbers and left, making the logged area exposed to settlers and farmers. Nonetheless, they cut and slash the rest of the forest for growing crop or rearing cattle, finishing the deforestation chain. 

  2. Urbanisation- Forests are also destroyed as a result of growing urban sprawl as lands are developed for dwelling. It is estimated that by 2050, 68% of world’s population will settle in cities. With this urban growth, the roads, ports, rail and other transformation infrastructure will develop that means forest land will decrease. 

Natural Calamities

Besides, intervention of humans, factors of natural origin also partially give rise to the deforestation. Some reasons are as follows.

  • Volcanic eruption, flood, earthquakes and other natural calamities lead to the destruction of forests.

  • Invasion of other animal species or some parasites is also capable of destroying the biodiversity of a particular area.  

  • Wildfires, although rare in tropical forests, are extremely intense. However, human-lit fires are more common in clearing the lands for varied purposes. INPE has reported more than 74,000 fires in Amazon in 2019 that is almost 84 per cent hike than the previous year. 

What is the Effect of Deforestation? 

Deforestation closely impacts the lives of humans and animals as well as the wider world. 

  • Biodiversity Impacts- Forests provide habitat for over 80% plants animal that lives on land. Notably, deforestation destroys all these habitats and diminishes biodiversity. Some scientists estimate that four to six thousand rainforest species go extinct each year. Biodiversity plays a key role in both ecosystem and human economies, even though it is much threatened across the globe. 

  • Soil Impacts- Deforestation degrades and weakens the soil. The forested soils are organically fertile as well as resistant to erosions. The reason behind it is that deep roots hold the trees upright and tall sun-blocking trees do not let the soil dry out quickly. However, deforestation will only make the land fragile, making them vulnerable to landslides, floods and other natural disasters. 

  • Climate Change- Deforestation and climate change are closely associated for multiple reasons. As we all know, they are the biggest absorber of CO2 of the atmosphere, and in return, they release O2 which we breathe. For a matter of fact, tropical forests alone store over 210 gigatons of carbon, as reported by WWF. Therefore the consequences of deforestations will be more than one. 

Firstly, the fallen trees will release the stored carbon to the atmosphere, and secondly, fewer trees will be able to absorb CO2. Ultimately, it will lead to greenhouse effects and global warming. Study on deforestation information revealed that it is responsible for 10-15% of anthropogenic carbon emission.  

  • Water Supply- The impact of deforestation is prominent in water supply. For example, rainforest of South America greatly influences the regional as well as global water cycle. The source of clean water will be lost along with the loss of the forests. Also, they help in refilling the aquifers that are a vital source of groundwater. 

  • Social Impact- Almost 250 million people live in forests and savannah regions, and most of them are rural poor. They rely on the forests for food and shelter, and they collect the materials of the forest and use them for livelihood. However, in developing countries like Vietnam, Mexico, Brazil, etc. there is no favourable land tenure system. Hence, big businesses often own those lands and employ the local people allowing negligible wages. 

After knowing what is deforestation, now we will discuss how to prevent it. 

Preventive Measures      

The effects of deforestation are grave but not irreversible. Various preventive measures, involving government policies and individual efforts can curb this crisis to a great extent. Some of them are discussed below. 

Broader Approaches

Along with the individual effort, hands-on and direct actions should be taken by the government or authoritative bodies. 

  • Taking strict actions against illegal logging and restricting logging, especially in old-growth forests. 

  • Introducing improvised policies to protect forested areas and restoring the forests. Also emphasising fruitful land practises like wildlife corridors. 

  • Revising trade agreements and fixing the value differently for products harvested through cutting trees and increasing incentives to encourage sustainable forestry production. 

  • Along with spreading awareness among the local people and tourists to protect forests and encouraging them to participate in ecotourism activities. 

Individual Efforts 

  • Consume consciously- If we limit our usage of industrial and processed products that are full of chemicals and food items like cookies, noodles, etc. that are made of palm oil that will be good for both our health and environment. 

Instead, opt for the products that are free of chemicals and preservative and organic vegetables and fruits. Try to go for eco-friendly products and buy products from small farmers who practise agroforestry. For example, while buying wooden furniture or products look for the ones made of sustainable woods. 

  • Cutting down fossil fuel consumption- Almost half of the palm oil imports of EU is used as biofuels. The governing body is planning to ban the subsidies in near future. Nonetheless, opting for more eco-friendly options like cycling, walking, carpooling, etc. to lessen the demand can go a long way too.  

  • Spreading awareness- Along with the implementation of laws, people need to be aware as well. With every little change in lifestyle, a big difference in deforestation solution can be seen. Also, children should be taught in schools the importance of trees and forests so that they become aware of from a very young age. 

  • Plant trees- Steps like managing forestry sources, eliminating clear-cutting and planting new trees to compensate those remove will definitely bring positive impacts on our environment. 

Several initiatives are being taken by forest protecting NGOs, workgroups and eco-villages to protect the forests. For example, Jadav Payeng, who is known as Forest man of India, contributed 30 years of his life to create a forest on his own. He planted trees to protect his island and to restore wildlife in it.  

To get more insights about the useful deforesting solutions, stay tuned to Vedantu’s website. You can also download our Vedantu app for enhanced access to related study materials and online interactive sessions.

FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

1. How Much Forest Is Getting Lost Every Year?

According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation’s report in 2016, each year, approximately 7 million hectares of forest is vanishing. Simultaneously, agricultural land is expanding by 6 million hectares. 

2. Where Is Deforestation The Highest?

As per the report of FAO, Nigeria is the country which has lost almost half of the primary forest in just last five years. The primary reason behind it is subsistence agriculture, logging, etc.

3. Which Countries Banned Deforestation?

Norway is the first country in the world that has banned deforestation since 2014. Along with the help of this country, Liberia is the first nation of Africa to stop deforestation.

4. Why Afforestation Is Essential?

Afforestation is a process of transforming any land into forest. It is important to sustain biodiversity. With proper afforestation planning, we can combat several environmental issues like pollution, soil erosion, global warming, etc.