Deforestation, occurring at the rate of the equivalent of 37 soccer fields a day, has a devastating effect on thousands of living species of both flora and fauna in native rainforests near the equator, mainly in developing countries. Deforestation also causes soil erosion, which is often irreversible; the forests will never grow back naturally. According to the BBC, recent studies indicate that deforestation has contributed to global warming in a significant way.
The Greenhouse Effect
The greenhouse effect is the complex process responsible for the Earth's surface and atmospheric temperature and therefore its ability to sustain life as we know it. The gases that make up our atmosphere absorb the UV rays from the sun, trapping them in the upper atmosphere and warming the planet. The amount of available greenhouse gases determines the extent of global warming, so when greenhouse gases increase, more UV rays are trapped and temperatures increase.
Deforestation is now believed to increase the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and thereby is a major contributor to global warming. Forest trees are cut down and burned, releasing the stored carbon in the trees back into the atmosphere, where it combines with O2 (oxygen) molecules to form CO2 (carbon dioxide). The presence of forest trees decreases C02 levels, as they photosynthesize the C02 in the atmosphere into O2. The lack of trees means more C02 in the air and less available O2, and therefore more greenhouse gases. More greenhouse gases translate into increased global warming.
Deforestation Danger Zones
In South America, the building of roads through the Amazon forests since 1970 led to an increase in deforestation clearing for farmland, as reported by The Amazon. Costa Rica was still clearing 20,000 acres of forest a year at the time of writing, according to Viva Costa Rica. The problem is also real in Africa.The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has reported that only 22.8 percent of West Africa's forests still remain. Central Africa is home to 70 percent of African hardwood forests, mainly in the Congo where deforestation has increased since European and Asian companies started logging there.
Sustainable forestation is a technique whereby two trees are planted for every tree that is cut down so that CO2 levels are not increased by cutting down trees; the levels can remain the same. With some effort on a global scale, global warming caused by deforestation can be reduced, but it requires a community effort. Forestry management organizations have been set up in the United Kingdom and in the United States to increase the woodlands nationwide. This is a start, but equatorial forest re-growth programs are needed as well. Developed countries need to help with reforestation programs in developing countries, including education programs.
- BBC; Deforestation and the Greenhouse Effect; March 2005
- FAO Newsroom; Deforestation Causes Global Warming; September 2008
- CSIRO; Confirmed -- Deforestation Plays Critical Climate Change Role; May 2008
- The Amazon: Information About the Deforestation of the Amazon Rainforest
- Mongabay: Afrotropical Realm
- Viva Costa Rica: Deforestation
- Photo Credit Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images
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