Deforestation: Trees Help in Regulating the Temperature
Forests cover 31% of the land area on our planet (World Wildlife Fund, 2019). They produce oxygen and provide homes for people and wildlife. In these forests are endangered animals who rely on benefits that the forests provide. For example, food, fresh water, clothing, medicine, and shelter. Forests around the world are under the threat of deforestation which is the removal of a forest or stand of trees which is then converted to a non-forest use for economic value. Deforestation comes in many forms, including fires, clear-cutting for agriculture, ranching and development, unsustainable logging for timber, and degradation due to climate change. Every year 46 to 58 thousand square miles of forest are lost to deforestation, which is equal to 48 football fields of forest disappearing every minute (Climate Institute, 2019).
Though deforestation has increased in the past years, it has been prevalent throughout history. For example, 90 percent of continental United States’ indigenous forest has been removed since 1600, according to the University of Michigan. The World Resources Institute estimates that most of the world’s remaining indigenous forests are located in Canada, Alaska, Russia, and the Northwestern Amazon basin. “If current deforestation levels proceed, the world’s rainforests may completely vanish in as little as 100 years,” according to National Geographic. Deforestation should be banned to protect the environment and climate as well as the resources found on the land, stop the loss of indigenous traditions and way of life, and to protect the biodiversity. An opposition regarding the topic of deforestation is that, without deforestation, it would not have been possible for communities to be built. Governments are able to build roads to make trade, transportation, and driving vehicles easier which is more convenient to residents.
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The timber and wood are used to make furniture, paper, and other everyday products we may use. The forest lands provide space for agricultural uses such as slash and burn agriculture. This method entails cutting down a patch of trees, burning them and growing crops on the land. The ash from the burned trees provides some nourishment for the plants and the land is weed-free from the burning. As a refute to the opposition, the biggest driver of deforestation is agriculture. Farmers cut forests to provide more room for planting crops or grazing livestock. Often, small farmers will clear a few acres by cutting down trees and burning them in a process known as slash-and-burn agriculture, however, when the soil becomes less nourishing and weeds begin to reappear over years of use, the farmers move on to a new patch of land and begin the process again leading to desertification. Logging operations, which provide the world’s wood and paper products, also cut countless trees each year.
Loggers also build roads to access more and more remote forests which leads to further deforestation. Adding on, desertification of land and its effect on the environment show the damage of deforestation. When forests are cleared for non-forest uses, they use methods that cause the soil cover, which consists mainly of vegetation and nutrients, to be removed as well. This leads to soil erosion and the quality of the soil to decrease. Soil erosion can also lead to silt entering the lakes, streams and other water sources. This can decrease local water quality and contribute to poor health in populations in the area. When this happens, farmers pack up and move on to the next section of the rainforest, leaving their farmland behind for abandonment. In addition to its effects on the land, burning organic materials on a large scale, like what is done with slash-and-burn agriculture, emits greenhouse gases, which contribute to global climate change. The number one problem caused by deforestation is the impact on the global carbon cycle.
According to the Climate Institute, “It is estimated that 25% of the world’s total greenhouse gas production comes from deforestation alone.” Carbon dioxide is the most prevalent greenhouse gas. It accounts for about 82.2 percent of all U.S. greenhouse gas, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. However, trees can help keep the greenhouse gasses out of the atmosphere. About 300 billion tons of carbon dioxide is stored in trees (Greenpeace). Furthermore, forests around the world store more than double the amount of carbon dioxide that is found in the atmosphere. This means that when areas are deforested, the carbon dioxide stored in those trees is released into the atmosphere. Deforestation is causing the displacement of Indigenous communities and their traditional way of life. The forests provide homes for indigenous people who have lived in harmony with the forest for thousands of years. They make up 5 percent of the world’s population, but account for 15 percent of the poorest (World Bank, 2019). They depend on the forest for food, shelter, and medicines. ‘Indigenous peoples are regarded as ‘backwards’ or ‘primitive’. This is often used by the state, or by multinational corporations, or by whoever…to justify taking over or stealing their land in the name of so-called development,’ (Fiona Watson). For example, the Guarani people in southern Brazil have been forced off their land to make room for cattle ranches and sugarcane for ethanol. “They now have one of the highest suicide rates in the world and all the biodiversity from their land has disappeared,” (Fiona Watson).
Many communities and families lost everything and are living in makeshift shelters on the edge of the forest. Pheasant farmers and rubber tappers have been driven out and threatened to murder, and in some cases, are murdered regardless of cooperation. As they disappear, we lose their extensive knowledge of the ecology of their areas. The biggest concern the Indigenous communities have is losing basic rights and not receiving respect for their traditional life. Many times, governments play a role by planning new dams or highways through an indigenous area without considering the people living there. Governments have also forced many groups into more urban areas and work in jobs that not only poorly pay labor but also destroy their traditional way of life. Deforestation is also causing a loss of biodiversity in forest areas. Seventy percent of the world’s plants and animals live in forests and are losing their habitats to deforestation, according to National Geographic. Loss of habitat can lead to species extinction. For example, to clear the land for the palm plantations, they often set fire to forests. Not only does the fire destroy the Orangutan habitat, but thousands of apes burned to death as they were unable to escape the flames. This species is classified as critically endangered by IUCN as well and it is considered as one of the world’s 25 most endangered primates (Tomclarkblog.blogspot.com, 2019). An example of a species that became extinct due to deforestation is the Javan Tiger: “The Javan tiger became extinct in the mid-1970s, as a result of the clearing of its habitat due to deforestation. Due to the large population, there was a shortage of rice to meet the needs of the growing population. Hence, more land was cleared to cultivate rice. By 1975, only 8% of the initial forest area remained, limiting the amount of food available for the tigers, and inevitably driving these Javan Tigers closer to human civilization.
In addition, the Rusa deer, Javan tigers’ most important prey species, went extinct due to diseases in the 1960s. As a result, these tigers were forced to prey on farm animals and in rare cases, humans. This resulted in the eradication of these majestic creatures, which ultimately led to its extinction in the 1970s,” (NTU). Furthermore, deforestation is also the threat to the future discovery of medical cures for diseases and illnesses. Only 1% of the species of tropical trees and plants have been tested by scientists for medical benefits. “Over 50% of prescription drugs are derived from chemicals first identified in plants,” (BBC News). If deforestation is allowed to continue it potentially prevents scientists, medical professionals and other researchers from studying and analysing different plant and tree species found in forests across the world. If such species are lost forever it will be almost impossible for humans to recreate them simply because they never knew they existed to begin with. Potential cures for diseases like cancer and HIV/AIDS may then become extinct before they are ever discovered. Due to the aforementioned, deforestation should be banned because it is detrimental to the land and the environment, as well as indigenous communities, and the biodiversity of forests.
The entire world is affected by deforestation whether it be indirectly, through climate change or other environmental changes, or directly affecting families, animals, and plants as their homes, habitats, and lives are destroyed. There are ways for individuals to help lessen the effects of deforestation. For example, traveling without using a car or simply using the car less is a great way to help the environment. Taking a bicycle or walking instead of using a car will save petrol, which is made from oil that is found in the ground and, like plastic, can destroy the rainforests. This reduces pollution and carbon dioxide emissions, and therefore helps to combat global warming as well. Donating to charities that protect rainforests, shopping carefully, recycling, and creating or partaking in fundraisers for the protection of rainforests are great ways to help limit deforestation as well. However, the repercussions of deforestation are too great to be stopped indirectly. The best and most effective way to preserve the forest, communities, environment, and biodiversity is to directly ban deforestation all together.