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Negative impacts of deforestation on the environment
Deforestation as a cause of climate change, poor air quality, and destruction of natural habitats
Ensuring the "lungs of the planet" in order to stop Climate change:
Forests cover 31% of the land area on our planet. They help people thrive and survive, by, for example, purifying water and air and providing people with jobs; some 13.2 million people across the world have a job in the forest sector and another 41 million have a job that is related to the sector.
Many animals also rely on forests. Eighty percent of the world's land-based species, such as elephants and rhinos, live in forests. Forests also play a critical role in mitigating climate change because they act as a carbon sink—soaking up carbon dioxide that would otherwise be free in the atmosphere and contribute to ongoing changes in climate patterns.
- 1.6 billion people need forests for food
- 80% of all biodiversity on land live in forests & trees
- Forests provide 75% of the world’s freshwater
- 1/3 of the world’s largest cities draw their drinking water from forests
What is “deforestation”?
Deforestation is a process that includes long-term or permanent loss of forest cover and implies transformation into another land use, it includes areas of forest converted to agriculture, pasture, water reservoirs and urban areas as well as the thinning of the forest and infrequent fires.
According to WWF the most common pressures causing deforestation and severe forest degradation are agriculture, unsustainable forest management, mining, infrastructure projects and increased fire incidence and intensity.
In the distant past, forests and grasslands covered most of the earth. The problem occurred when humans began utilizing forests improperly hundreds of thousands of years ago. With time, deforestation accelerated as a problem, and only in the 1950s did it draw the attention of society.
Deforestation has important global consequences.
The loss of trees and other vegetation can cause climate change, desertification, soil erosion, fewer crops, flooding, increased greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, and a host of other problems for people and animals. Although people who do not live in areas threatened by deforestation are not directly affected by it, they will certainly suffer its consequences caused by climate change and the lack of fresh air. The changing environmental conditions are affecting the forests to an extent that they cannot sustain themselves.
This continues to be an increasingly serious problem, due to the world's rapidly growing population and demand on valuable resources. Tropical forest loss accounts for more than 90% of global deforestation, most of them being located in Amazon Basin nations of Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia and Peru;
One of the countries that is most affected is Brazil. Despite the efforts put into curbing, the deforestation rate has been rising at an accelerated rate of 24% a year and hit it’s maximum in 2019 where it exceeded 34%. In order to fight deforestation in Amazon, Brazil receives the financial support of wealthy countries such as Germany and Norway that have donated up to $1.2 million to the Amazon fund since 2008.
Indonesia and the island of Borneo, being the richest reserves of forests and biodiversity in the world are the regions suffering the most from deforestation. Until 2012, Indonesia lost 9 million hectares of forests due to the production of palm oil. Impact was made due to the pressure of activists and NGOs to make regulations such as RSPO to protect forests. Now Indonesia accounts for 35% of sustainable palm oil production.
Australia is one of the most impacted continents by deforestation, about 50% of Australia’s rainforests have been cleared and it has an immense impact on the health of rivers and coastal ecosystems. Australia’s mammal species have experienced a huge rate of extinction due to land clearing directly and habitats becoming more fragmented than ever. Studies have shown that 1,250 plant and 390 terrestrial animal species are threatened.
Forests have a big influence on rainfall patterns, water and soil quality as well as flood prevention. Millions of people rely directly on forests as their home or for making a living. The South American rainforest, for example, influences regional and perhaps even global water cycles, and it's key to the water supply in Brazilian cities and neighbouring countries. The loss of clean water and biodiversity from all forests could have many other effects we can’t foresee.
Forest loss and damage is the cause of around 10% of global warming. There’s simply no way we can fight the climate crisis if we don’t stop deforestation. Not only do they absorb the carbon dioxide that we exhale but also the heat-trapping greenhouse gases that human activities emit. As those gases enter the atmosphere, global warming increases, a trend scientists now prefer to call climate change. Protecting tropical forests from deforestation is essential for achieving the climate goals of the Paris agreement from 2015. Global Forest Watch Climate recently released estimated carbon dioxide emissions associated with the 2017 tropical tree cover loss data, and the numbers demonstrate more of what we already knew. If tropical tree cover loss continues at the current rate, it will be nearly impossible to keep warming below the pledged two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit).
However, there is good news as the rate of forest loss has declined substantially over the past three decades. The annual rate of deforestation was estimated at 10 million hectares between 2015-2020, compared with 12 million during 2010-2015. The area of forest under protection has also reached roughly 726 million hectares: nearly 200 million more than in 1990. Nevertheless, more effort is required in order to reach the targets set by the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in 2015, highlighting SDGs 6, 13, and 15.