Thursday, April 19, 2012

Deforestation and the Need for Change

By Luan Madani

There are many key environmental issues that are currently of concern. An often overlooked issue is deforestation. Deforestation happens more often than people think, and while there are steps taken to ensure that deforestation is slowed, it is still a major problem. There are many reasons why deforestation takes place and many of the reasons are for human necessity.

One of the main reasons deforestation takes place is using the wood for timber. Timber is widely used heating fuel, but also for housing, paper and pencils. Heating is very important as many families use wood burning stoves to heat their homes as an alternative to oil heat. Charcoal is also derived from deforestation which is also sold as fuel. It is very important for the economy to have these things, therefore, deforestation has become an integral part in human life.

The land that is cleared as a result of deforestation is often used as pasture for livestock, plantations and settlements. While deforestation is turned into a positive with using the wood as fuel and the land for pasture, deforestation leads to a bigger issue as it destroys wildlife habitats. There are many species that rely on wooded lands and rain forests as their habitats. As one can assume, this in turn destroys species of wildlife and leads to extinction. Without reforestation, deforestation has led to soil erosion, biodiversity loss and aridity, which is an area that is severely lacking in water.

Deforestation is also a contributor to global warming, as it enhances the greenhouse effect. Out of all of the contributors to greenhouse gases, 20% of it is from deforestation. Trees and plants remove carbon in the atmosphere during photosynthesis, which also releases oxygen as part of the process. Burning wood releases much of the stored carbon back into the atmosphere. Also, carbon stores that are in the soil are released during deforestation. As one can see, mass deforestation contributes to the massive problem of global warming.

Another natural occurrence that is affected is the water cycle. Groundwater is extracted by trees through their roots and subsequently released into the atmosphere. Obviously, when trees are removed, there is no catalyst to evaporate the water away which results in a much drier climate. Deforestation reduces atmospheric moisture, and also reduces soil cohesion which results in erosion, flooding and dangerous landslides.

As one can see, this is a very large issue that reaches people on a global scale. We in America are not the only ones who rely on wood so heavily for daily necessities such as heating and cooking. In developing countries, approximately three billion people rely on wood for these same things. The few issues that were pointed out above are a part of a larger problem and are a part of many other issues that deforestation causes. If nothing is done in the near future to decrease deforestation and increase reforestation, we as humans are going to pay the price.

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