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Causes and Effects of Deforestation

 
By Matthew Nesbitt, Writer and researcher. December 15, 2022
Causes and Effects of Deforestation

Deforestation will occur to some degree due to natural causes. Some ecosystems have their own ways of regenerating and continuing their lifecycles. Human action on various ecosystems has also caused deforestation, something which has been important for various types of infrastructure and other aspects of civilization. Unfortunately, the rate of deforestation cannot surpass a certain rate without causing damage to natural and manmade ecosystems.

At thedailyECO, we discover what are the causes and effects of deforestation on our planet. We also provide photos of these consequences and information on what we can do collectively to help protect our forests from future harm.

You may also be interested in: Causes and Consequences of Floods

What is deforestation?

We can define deforestation as the process of stripping forest land of its vegetation, specifically trees and plants. Forests perform vital functions in nature and losing them is highly damaging to the environment. It also contributes significantly to climate change as trees process harmful carbon as they grow. Only in some very specific cases can this process of deforestation be beneficial for the planet.

Deforestation occurs when there is massive or uncontrolled felling of trees. This produces great changes in the ecosystem, as we will see later when we discuss the effects of deforestation.

Among the main causes of deforestation, we can find some as the result of human impact and others due to natural phenomena. We can only avoid, solve and control the former. We do so by improving the current state of the planet and helping to rebalance the already deleterious consequences of deforestation.

Learn more about the areas being affect by deforestation with our guide to the different types of forests.

Manmade causes of deforestation

Human activities are the main cause of deforestation on our planet. It is particularly dangerous because it is avoidable in the most serious cases. Among the main causes of deforestation produced by humans are:

Indiscriminate or poorly managed felling of trees

Millions of hectares are cleared or burned to extract timber and other products or to convert forests to farmland. These activities are mostly carried out in developing countries, which are more dependent on wood and without adequate control over land use.

Controlling deforestation does not mean living without products made from wood or without food from the agriculture we need to survive. However, the problem with deforestation is not felling trees, but doing so unsustainable. This is one reason it is important to use products with a sustainable management certification.

Cattle raising

Ranchers sometimes bulldoze thousands of hectares of jungle to convert land so it can be used for agricultural purposes. There are prominent examples in certain countries such as Brazil and other South American countries. Often the land is used for cattle grazing which can have extend periods of over two years. When this happens, we not only lose the positive effects of trees, but the soil is often damaged to the point it is unusable for prolonged periods of time.

Urbanization of forested land

The expansion of urban centers is another cause of the felling of trees for manmade deforestation. The population of cities is increasing with rural areas suffering from depopulation. Some forecasts predict that the world's total urban population may double in size by 2050[1]. For such large population growth, new development is required, something which is increasingly obtained by destroying forests and jungles.

Causes and Effects of Deforestation - Manmade causes of deforestation

Natural causes of deforestation

As stated in the introduction, the causes of deforestation are not always manmade. Ecosystems have ways of regenerating and can also suffer from natural imbalances. The following are the most common causes of natural deforestation:

Forest fires

In summer, forest fires destroy thousands of hectares of forest. With the increasingly negative effects of climate change, these forest fires are becoming more frequent and destructive. Australia and the United States have suffered terrible widespread forest fires in recent years. In the vast majority of cases, they are caused by the negligence of people. In some cases, a naturally arid periods and the effects of the sun can cause dry vegetation to catch fire, resulting in forest fires.

Pests and diseases in forests

Pests and diseases of trees is another of the natural causes of deforestation. An extreme case is what is occurring in the forests of North America, where bark beetles are causing high levels of tree mortality[2].

Effects of deforestation

Now that we have discussed what causes tree loss, let's talk about the consequences of deforestation on our planet. These consequences are of varying severity, but in some cases they can alter ecosystems permanently.

Alteration of the water cycle

Trees attract rain and forests are a vital part of the water cycle. For this reason, when losing forest mass, the behavior of water in the area is altered. It causes it to move towards other areas with vegetation, meaning the original areas become too arid for abundant plant life.

Desertification

The problem with deforestation is not the felling of trees, but the indiscriminate or uncontrolled felling of trees. Without subsequent reforestation after trees are felled and without proper forest management, this area will become desertified land.

Loss of habitat, biodiversity and soil

Deforestation leads to damage to ecosystems. In turn, this causes a loss of biodiversity as many species will not be able to survive the new state. In addition, the fixation of carbon dioxide (CO2) is avoided, in turn contributing to climate change. Deforested regions tend to have soil erosion and eventually become unproductive land. This consequent lack of vegetation growth means herbivorous animals have no food and shelter to live and carnivorous animals cannot feed on them.

See what flora and fauna are affected by deforestation by looking at our article on plants and animals living in temperate forests.

Loss of large forest land

Some places suffer detrimentally from this problem. This is because one many forested areas are not cared for properly after tree felling. One of the most important cases is the jungle land of the Amazon. Deforestation of Amazon land has very serious consequences on the whole world as it is an ecosystem which influences globally.

Similar deforestation in Mexico, Argentina, Colombia and Peru is also having dire consequences. Massive logging operations are resulting in land becoming unusable for various purposes. It also has the knock-on effect of inhabitants moving out of these areas to look for work in more urbanized places.

Global weather modification

When forests and jungles are lost the water cycle and temperatures both in the given region and also globally are modified. Therefore, more actions are added that accelerate global warming and climate change.

Causes and Effects of Deforestation - Effects of deforestation

How to avoid deforestation

Now we know the causes and effects of deforestation, it is important to know how we can slow its progress and create more sustainable felling practices. Perhaps the most important step in avoiding harmful manmade deforestation is to reach a global agreement between the world's governments. Since deforestation in one country is used to supply the industry of others, mitigating the effects of deforestation is a global concern.

Practical preventive and remedial approaches to the problem must be established. In the personal sphere, certain actions can also be carried out. Personal responsibility cannot be evaded in this problem. Certain gestures, no matter how insignificant they may seem, can help to tackle the problem of deforestation. For example, paper recycling is important.

A lower consumption of paper by the population would force the producing companies to not need so much raw material. Find out more with our article on whether paper towels are recyclable.

Sustainable forest management certificates

It is also essential to keep forests and green areas clean. In this way, fires caused by glass, soft drink cans and other types of waste are prevented. Finally, it is necessary to keep informed about the bad practices that companies carry out to boycott their products, where necessary. Large areas of forests and jungles depend on responsible consumption. Greenpeace and other environmental organizations publish reports on the matter. In addition, consuming certified sustainable forest management products (such as those promoted by FSC or PEFC) helps keep forests in good condition.

Photos of the effects of deforestation

To help show the consequences of deforestation, we provide the following photos which show the damage caused by the irresponsible felling of trees:

Causes and Effects of Deforestation - Photos of the effects of deforestation
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If you want to read similar articles to Causes and Effects of Deforestation, we recommend you visit our Environment (other) category.

References

1. The World Bank. (2022). Urban Development. Retrieved from:
https://www.worldbank.org/en/topic/urbandevelopment/overview

2. USDA. (2015). Bark Beetles in California Conifers: Are Your Trees Susceptible? Retrieved from:
https://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/stelprdb5384837.pdf

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