What are the effects of deforestation?

The 2010 FAO report reveals that forests cover about 30% of total land cover, and out of that, 13million hectares of it are lost each year. This is particularly alarming in the tropical areas of South America, central West Africa, and South and Southeast Asia. It’s hard to ignore the catastrophe that this is resulting in. Let’s see a few effects:

Reduced and loss of biodiversity

The biodiversity in the rainforests has remained a natural wonder. With millions of animal species, tree types, water plants and animals as well as microorganisms all interacting naturally, it is truly frightening to imagine the extent of damage that we cause by destroying the natural habitat of all the life forms in the rainforests. Studies (from PSU1) have shown that a single tree in the rainforest may be home to more than 40  different ant species. Each species has a different ecological function and may alter the habitat in distinct and important ways. PSU1 Geographic Perspectives on Sustainability and Human-Environment Systems, 2011

Climate control

Green plants are massive reservoirs of stored carbon because they survive by absorbing CO2 from the atmosphere. Deforestation means less absorption of the greenhouse gas, resulting in more trapped heat energy in the atmosphere. That is not all, as decaying vegetative matter also gives off methane, another major greenhouse gas, together with carbon stored in the green plants. The 2007 Climate Change Synthesis Report from IPCC indicates that deforestation (and decay of biomass) account for 17.3% of carbon dioxide emissions.

Change in weather patterns

Day to day weather patterns is as a result of the sun’s energy, heating up the land surface, creating winds, evaporation and the resulting in precipitation. The direct impact of energy on the land surface as a result of the less vegetative cover means we will be seeing more extreme air pressure, wind action, and possibly stronger storms in the near future. The forests regulate local and global weather through their absorption and creation of rainfall and their exchange of atmospheric gases. For example, the Amazon alone creates 50-80 per cent of its own rainfall through transpiration (3). http://rainforests.mongabay.com/0906.htm

Water cycle and watershed disruption

The watershed abilities of forests are greatly compromised when forests are destroyed. This is because there will be less transpiration and water stored in the leaves of the trees, and the water bodies running through them will be exposed to the sun’s evaporative power. Smaller water bodies will dry up and potentially undermine the natural water cycle in the region.

Soils and erosions

The richness of soils in forest areas, resulting from continual decaying or organic matter is negatively impacted by deforestation. Insects and bacteria that aid decomposition and soil breakdown are subjected to the heat from the sun and the direct effect of the rain. Runoff is more and results in washing away the top layers of the land surface. Erosion occurs and the quality of the land is largely reduced.

Loss of economic value

People who make a living from forests resources such as gathering and hunters, farmers, researchers, together with revenue from tourists and other pharmaceutical activities are all impacted. The locals lose their livelihoods and the countries where these forests are located also lose revenue from deforestation.