Alarming Long-Term Effects of Deforestation
With the world growing and changing at a pace hard to match, the increasing need for space is a concern. Currently, the world’s population has exploded to over 7 billion humans – such large population numbers make people dependent upon modern agriculture for survival, and also, most importantly, dependent upon expansion. According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, an estimated 18 million acres of forest are lost each year. Agricultural activities are one of the major factors affecting deforestation, due to overgrowing demand for food products, a huge amount of tress have fallen down to grow crops.
Deforestation is the term used for removal of trees and other vegetation for agricultural, commercial, or housing use without replanting and without allowing time for the forest to regenerate itself.
Agriculture Promoting Deforestation
What makes deforestation alarming…is the immediate and long-term effects it is bound to inflict if continued at the current pace. Some predictions state that the rainforests of the world will be destroyed completely if deforestation continues at its current pace. A report covered in Treehugger on the leading causes of deforestation and forest degradation across Africa, Latin America, and Asia finds that agriculture, both commercial and local/subsistence, is responsible for 80% of tropical deforestation.
Generally, forest is cleared by cutting down or burning down all of the trees. Burning trees is the popular method, for it releases nutrients locked up in vegetation and produces a layer of nutrient-rich material above the otherwise poor soil. The cleared area is quickly planted and supports vigorous growth for a few years, after which the nutrient stock is exhausted and a large amount of fertilizer is required. Fertilizer is then washed into local streams – affecting fish and aquatic life. When the use of fertilizer is no longer efficient, the land is abandoned.
Even when the originally deforested area is over time reforested, it still lacks the large biodiversity of its previous state. With the disappearance of the original forest, many species go extinct, and many that don’t lose a great deal of their genetic diversity and variation.
Deforestation has significant implications for the medical and agricultural industries. Many potential medicines have been lost as a result of deforestation. Modern agriculture is dependent on a very limited number of crops — crops which are becoming increasingly lacking in genetic diversity, and, as a result, increasingly susceptible to disease, pests, and climatic changes. With the loss of wild species, much genetic diversity is lost that could potentially be used to address future outbreaks of disease and to increase resiliency.
It’s currently estimated that the world is losing around 137 plant, animal and insect species every day as a result of rainforest deforestation. That means that around 50,000 species are going extinct every year. The vast old-growth forests that once covered much of the world have largely been cut and burned down because of agriculture. According to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, subsistence farming accounts for 48% of deforestation, and commercial agriculture for a further 32% of deforestation.
Feeding our growing world population in a sustainable manner requires agricultural change. The challenge to all of us need to make is to fund and support positive environmental strategies. Individuals can make a difference to save forests by setting the best example. We can all use the power of our purchases to put pressure on companies that have bad environmental practices. By buying recycled or certified organic products, only supporting brands with zero deforestation policies, and getting others to do the same, can help the effort to create a deforestation-free future. Finally, educate your friends, family, and community about how our everyday actions can impact forests thousands of miles away.
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