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Cancers > Forest Pollution

Deforestation is the permanent destruction of indigenous forests and woodlands.  It is an environmental problem that is happening in many places, and affecting the whole world.  Trees are cut down for logging companies, for animals to have land to graze and so farmers have land for their crops.

The removal of the forests may seem like it affects only the immediate surroundings, but it really affects the world as a whole. In regions where deforestation occurs there is an influx in the temperature extremes. There is no shade during the day, and no insulation during the night.  Once the trees and shade are gone, the once moist soil soon becomes dry and cracked.  This leads to flooding and erosion. There is nothing to absorb the rainfall and no roots to hold the soil in place.  Another huge problem of deforestation is its contribution to the greenhouse effect.  The greenhouse effect is when gases in the atmosphere trap the sun's heat causing global warming.  Since trees are half carbon, all of that carbon is released into the atmosphere when they are burned.  Unfortunately carbon dioxide is one of the gases that contributes to the greenhouse effect.  Since three quarters of the deforestation is due to the burning of the forests, the burning of trees accounts for a quarter of the carbon dioxide that is released into the atmosphere each year.
Deforestation is brought about by the following:
* conversion of forests and woodlands to agricultural land to feed growing numbers of people;
* development of cash crops and cattle ranching, both of which earn money for tropical countries;
* commercial logging destroys trees as well as opening up forests for agriculture;
* felling of trees for firewood and building material; the heavy lopping of foliage for fodder; and heavy browsing of saplings by domestic animals like goats.
To compound the problem, the poor soils of the humid tropics do not support agriculture for long. Thus people are often forced to move on and clear more forests in order to maintain production.
Consequences of deforestation

  • Climate Change

When an area of rainforest is either cut down or destroyed, there are various climate changes that happen as a result. The following is a list of the various climate changes with a brief description of why they come about.

    1. Desiccation of previously moist forest soil
      What happens is because of the exposure to the sun, the soil gets baked and the lack of canopy leaves nothing to prevent the moisture from quickly evaporating into the atmosphere. Thus, previously moist soil becomes dry and cracked.
    1. Dramatic Increase in Temperature Extremes
      Trees provide shade and the shaded area has a moderated temperature. With shade, the temperature may be 98 degrees Farenheit during the day and 60 degrees at night. With out the shade, temperatures would be much colder during the night and around 130 degrees during the day.
    1. Moist Humid Region Changes to Desert
      This is related to the desiccation of previously moist forest soil. Primarily because of the lack of moisture and the inability to keep moisture, soil that is exposed to the sun will dry and turn into desert sand. Even before that happens, when the soil becomes dry, dust storms become more frequent. At that point, the soil becomes useless.
    1. No Recycling of Water
      Moisture from the ocean fall as rain on adjacent coastal regions. The moisture is soon sent up to the atmosphere through the transpiration of foliage to fall again on inland forest areas. This cycle repeats several times to rain on all forest regions.
    1. Less Carbon Dioxide and Nitrogen Exchange
      The rainforests are important in the carbon dioxide exchange process. They are second only to oceans as the most important "sink" for atmospheric carbon dioxide. The most recent survey on deforestation and greenhouse gas emissions reports that deforestation may account for as much as 10% of current greenhouse gas emissions. Greenhouse gases are gases in the atmosphere that literally trap heat. There is a theory that as more greenhouse gasses are released into the atmosphere, more heat gets trapped. Thus, there is a global warming trend in which the average temperature becomes progressively higher.
    1. More Desertification
      According to the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) in 1977, deforestation is an important factor contributing to desertification. What is unclear is how fast deserts are expanding is controversial. According to UNEP, between 1958 and 1975, the Saharan Desert expanded southward by about 100km. In 1980 UNEP estimated that desertification threatened 35 per cent of the world's land surface and 20 per cent of the world's population. Recently, groups challenged those conclusions. Some scientists claim that the conclusions were based on insufficient data. Nevertheless, desertification still threatens more and more dry lands.
    1. Soil Erosion
      Deforestation is known to contribute to run-off of rainfall and intensified soil erosion. The seriousness of the problem depends much on soil characteristics and topography. Silting of water courses, lakes and dams occurs as a result of soil erosion.
    1. Extinction of species
      Species which depend on the forest for survival are under threat.   Forests contain more than half of all species on our planet - as the habitat of these species is destroyed, so the number of species declines.
    1. Other Effects
      There many rewards such as clean air and clean water, perhaps the two most important, that forests provide. Rainforests also provide many aesthetic, recreational and cultural rewards. If the rainforests are destroyed, then these rewards disappear. This has major social repercussions for the entire world.

      * Alteration of local and global climates through disruption of:
      a) The carbon cycle. Forests act as a major carbon store because carbon dioxide (CO2) is taken up from the atmosphere and used to produce the carbohydrates, fats, and proteins that make up the tree. When forests are cleared, and the trees are either burnt or rot, this carbon is released as CO2. This leads to an increase in the atmospheric CO2 concentration. CO2 is the major contributor to the greenhouse effect. It is estimated that deforestation contributes one-third of all CO2 releases caused by people.
      b) The water cycle. Trees draw ground water up through their roots and release it into the atmosphere (transpiration). In Amazonia over half of all the water circulating through the region's ecosystem remains within the plants. With removal of part of the forest, the region cannot hold as much water. The effect of this could be a drier climate.
    Solutions
    Various solutions to deforestation have been suggested and tried to see what effect they had.   Some were more successful than others.

    Sustainable Commercial Logging Options - this is an attempt to regulate logging to ensure it is done in a sustainable and environmentally friendly way by permitting logging at a minimal rate.   Environmentalists believe this scheme had a negligible effect as more deforestation occurred.  This would probably be more effective if better incentives were given to those who were sustainable.  The logging need to be better regulated and enforcement carried out to ensure the rules were stuck to.  The Tropical Forestry Action Plan was not a success as its main premise that deforestation was due to poverty.   Deforestation by those trying to make a living from the forest is on a small scale and has little effect.   The assumption that the timber harvest would help lift these people out of poverty was false as they rarely received much.   The limits of reserve strategy aimed to preserve the soil and prevent erosion once the land was cleared did not really address the issue of deforestation.   Instead of protection to the soil it should have concentrated on protecting the forest itself.

    International biodiversity action plans aimed to protect habitats by placing protection upon important keystone species.    Again it needed to protect the forest itself rather than individual species and did little to address the issues of deforestation.  Giving ownership of the forests to the indigenous peoples may help preserve areas of rainforest however the land would then be outside governmental control.     Though conditions could be in place to ensure that it is well managed.

    Using other crops, as a substitute to lumber doesn't really solve the problem as the land is still needed to grow the crop, land that is likely to be claimed from the forest.   International biodiversity action plans aimed to protect habitats by placing protection upon important keystone species.    Again it needed to protect the forest itself rather than individual species and did little to address the issues of deforestation.  Using other crops, as a substitute to lumber doesn't really solve the problem as the land is still needed to grow the crop, land that is likely to be claimed from the forest.
    Protecting Endangered Forest: Endangered Forests are unique, intact or ecological critical forests found in ecosystems around the world. Greenpeace and other environmental organizations developed a set of common criteria used to define Endangered Forests. The Endangered Forest definition is most commonly used by companies or governments in purchasing policies designed to prevent ancient forest destruction.

    The main and probably the most important ay to reduce deforestation is to inform and give consumers the choice to reject forest made products, though they will need viable sustainable alternatives to choose from.

    Which ever method or combination of method we use the important thing to work together and all put our full support behind it as that is the only way we can succeed in eliminating deforestation.  The safe keeping of our precious planet lies with each and every member of its human population.   We are the ones accountable for our actions even though it is ourselves we are accountable too.   We have the power and knowledge to turn this planet into a green and pleasant place to live or to completely destroy all life.   Deforestation is one of the major pressing environmental issues we face and one we must address the solutions to and quickly if we are to restore the damage we have done to the environment. Although forests may seem a small and insignificant part of the world landscape when seen as a whole they play a vital role in maintaining the atmosphere and there is a real possibility that we could be left with nothing but wasteland if they were to disappear.
 
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