Deforestation leads to many negative effects on the environment, from physical degradation to reduced biodiversity, global warming to disturbance of the water cycle. It is important to be aware of and understand these effects, so that steps can be taken to minimize their impact.
Why is it a Problem?
Deforestation involves the mass removal of trees from an indigenous forest or woodland area, either in the search for timber and other wood products or to clear land for human agriculture and industrialization. Unfortunately, this severely upsets the balance of nature as trees play vital roles in maintaining not only important biodiversity but ultimately, in maintaining the climate and geography as well.
Effects of Deforestation
When trees are destroyed through deforestation, there is a reduced capacity to remove carbon from the atmosphere – in fact, human deforestation activities are said to contribute to a third of all carbon dioxide. Forests also help to extract pollutants from the air so their destruction contributes towards biosphere instability.
Furthermore, the leaf litter and other organic residue from trees help to provide a ground covering and increase the soil’s capacity to store water.Trees literally control the amount of water available in the atmosphere, the soil or even in the ground water. Thus, areas that have been cleared of trees cannot retain as much moisture in the ground and atmosphere and this very often leads to a drier climate and eventual desertification.
For example, instead of intercepting precipitation and allowing the rain water to gradually percolate down to the soil to eventually join the groundwater systems, the bare, tree-less areas promote surface water run-off – which might convert into dangerous flash floods. Also, this water – instead of being reabsorbed by tress and re-released back into the atmosphere, is lost in the run-off and ultimately to the oceans.
How do we Control Deforestation?
The best way of limiting the damage done by deforestation is to promote sustainable practices in all arenas, whether it is in agriculture or forest management. For example, avoiding modern intensive farming methods which deplete the soil of its vital nutrients in favour of traditional cyclic agriculture where land is allowed to rest and rejuvenate and maintain soil fertility.
More directly, reforestation (planting X number of trees for every one removed) and establishing sustainable forest plantations for the timber industry go a long way towards mitigating the harmful effects of deforestation. As a consumer, demanding accountability from suppliers and manufacturers of timber products and making an active decision to only purchase wood products from sustainable sources can have a significant influence on forestry management and timber harvesting practices.