Deforestation is the loss or destruction of natural forests and is an increasing global problem with far reaching environmental and economic consequences.
Trees are natural consumers of carbon dioxide helping to absorb CO2 from the atmosphere through photosynthesis. Destruction of trees not only removes these “carbon sinks,” but tree burning and decomposition pump even more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Accounting for around 20% of global carbon emissions, deforestation is second only to Energy Supply as the biggest contributor to green house gas emissions.
With seventy percent of the Earth’s land animals and plants residing in forests, many species of flora and fauna are increasingly in danger of extinction due to deforestation.
Over 80% of the Earth’s natural forests have been destroyed. The annual net global loss of forest area between 2000 and 2005 was over seven million hectares per year, an area about half the size of England.
However despite these staggering statistics deforestation continues to happen and on a massive scale.
So why is it happening??
Much of the deforestation that is occurring today is in poorer countries, who feel it is necessary for their economic development. From the perspective of the developing world, the benefits of forest as carbon sinks or biodiversity reserves go mainly to richer developed. Developing countries feel that some countries in the developed world, cut down their forests centuries ago and reaped the benefits from this deforestation, and that it is unfair to deny developing countries the same opportunities.
The biggest driver of deforestation is agriculture. Farmers cut forests to provide more room for planting crops or grazing livestock.
Logging operations, which provide the world’s wood and paper products, accounts for almost 32 million acres of forest per year. Loggers, some of them acting illegally, also build roads to access more and more remote forests which leads to further deforestation.
Other causes of deforestation include cutting trees for fuel, mining operations, dam building, urban sprawl and oil extraction.
What can we do??
If we are to stop deforestation we need to act on a number of fronts.
The first thing we need to do is to fully get behind recycling programs and make sure that we use recycled paper whenever possible. This means that there is less demand for wood and therefore fewer trees have to be cut down to satisfy demand.
We can also support legislation to prevent deforestation. The international community is considering a number of initiatives to help developing countries combat their problems with deforestation. The main initiative is known as REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation). This initiative pays people in developing countries to leave trees standing. This is a way of compensating for the loss of income from industrial activities that force deforestation.
Once strategies to reduce deforestation have been successfully implemented, the next stage is to reforest areas that have been damaged. This will restore the forest and restore the many benefits they bring. Then we have to encourage the sustainable management of forests, after all 7%of the world’s forests is enough to satisfy the current demand for timber. By looking out for products bearing the logo from organisations such as the Rainforest Alliance or Forestry Stewardship Council we can be sure that the products we are buying are legal and sustainably sourced.
Here at The Forest Project we are taking an active role to increase forest cover here in the UK.
To find out how you can help, click here >