The Facts About Deforestation
- Nearly half of the world’s forests have been cut down since humans began chopping down trees.
- In the last 50 years, 17% of the Amazon rainforest has been cleared.
- Each year, 18.7 million acres of forests are lost.
- Lack of trees from deforestation accounts for approximately 15% of greenhouse gas emissions.
Causes of Deforestation
Half of deforestation has occurred in order to convert forested lands into agricultural land and mining areas. The rest is due to other anthropogenic factors such as, legal and illegal logging, road development, urbanization, and overgrazing. A small portion has also disappeared due to wildfires.
Deforestation in Malaysia and Indonesia is mostly caused by palm oil production. When the forests are cleared in order to plant palm oil trees, many animals lose their homes and food sources. Currently, the species that are endangered due to palm oil production include orangutans, Bornean pygmy elephants, Sumatran elephants, tigers, and rhinos.
The Amazon has lost much of it’s lush rainforest because forests are cleared to create grasslands for cattle to graze and to plant crops, such as soy. This severely reduces the amount of habitat available for rainforest dwellers and also creates habitat fragmentation. This leads to a decrease in population density and species richness in the forest.
Impacts of Deforestation
Deforestation leads to a variety of environmental issues that have a cascade of negative effects. One major impact of deforestation is increased greenhouse gas emissions. Forests remove carbon from the atmosphere. As a result of deforestation, less harmful gasses are being removed by forests. Also, because trees hold so much carbon, once they are cut they become large sources of carbon when they are burned or decay. This leads to an acceleration of climate change around the world.
The relationship between trees and water influences regional and global water cycles. Trees absorb water from the ground and then let it out little by little into the air out of pores in their leaves. This process, called transpiration, has a surprising impact on cloud formation. Large forests put so much water into the air that they help create the weather. With less trees, less water enters the sky, which means less rainfall. Because clouds travel the planet, drought becomes a global issue. Regional impacts include drying of rivers because the water simply flows away and isn’t replenished by rains. In places like South America, the water supply for many countries, such as Brazil, are at risk. The combination of increased carbon in the atmosphere and decreased water in the air, suggests that deforestation has serious effects on the climate at a global scale.
Loss and fragmentation of habitats threatens and endangers many species of animals and plants. When keystone species are removed from habitats, it can lead to imbalances in populations of other plants and animals, which can lead to detrimental changes in the ecosystem. This can have negative impacts on the 1.6 billion people that rely on their home forests for food and medicine.
How To End Deforestation
Believe it or not, you can help. As a consumer, you have the power to vote with your dollar. Always check the ingredient list for anything you purchase (food, cleaners, cosmetics) and avoid buying anything with palm oil as an ingredient. If you eat meat, dairy, and eggs, research the brands that you purchase and find out where your food comes from. Make sure you are not contributing to the demand for animal products that are the source of forest clearing. When purchasing wood products, make sure they come forests that are sustainably harvested and replanted. When shopping for coffee or cocoa/chocolate, only choose brands that protect the forests and their farmers.
Support organizations that are working to preserve and restore forests. You can directly donate, or purchase any of our Wild Wanderlust Apparel products. We donate at least 25% to organizations helping to conserve wildlife and wild places. If you have no money to give, you can volunteer your time or simply help spread the word about deforestation and how individuals can help stop this devastating crisis.