The permanent removal of trees and vegetation from woodlands and forests is termed deforestation. There are other definitions of deforestation that also consider other kinds of vegetation. Irrespective of which definition one chooses to believe, deforestation is by far the most alarming problem facing humanity in the present times.
A post on National Geographic network’s website talks about how some degree of deforestation is not intentional. Uncontrollable factors such as wildfires and overgrazing do contribute to deforestation to a certain extent, but the real area of concern is actually the massive void between the pace at which the green cover of earth is getting depleted and reinforced.
Here are some scary numbers that put the extent of deforestation in perspective:-
• As per the figures released by United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), about 18 million hectares of forest area is cleared for developmental activities every year. This is almost as huge a number as the total landmass of Panama!
• The percentage coverage of forest land in terms of the total land mass of the world is a measly 30% today.
• The impact of deforestation in terms of global warming has been explained pretty convincingly by a publication from the World Research Institute. About 17% of annual greenhouse gas emissions, on a global scale, can be attributed to deforestation.
• Till date, almost half the Earth’s forest cover has been cleared.
The danger zones
Despite the fact that deforestation has been prevalent in all its intensity from more than 5 decades now, there are certain geographies that have either borne the brunt of massive deforestation recently, or are in the danger zone. Taking a broader perspective, it might be mentioned here that the spread out indigenous forest cover in continental United States has been reduced to merely 10% in the past 4 centuries. Tropical rainforests, according to a detailed post about deforestation available on LiveScience network, have been the targets for large scale deforestation activities in the past. Indonesia, Brazil, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Thailand, and some parts of Africa have been seeing massive deforestation in the recent past. This has been substantiated by GRID-Ardenal, a collaboration center from United Nations Environment Program. Today, about one-fifth of the world’s indigenous forest cover is concentrated in Amazon, Canada, Russia, and Alaska. The Amazon region is right at the center of the most imminent danger of deforestation. Considering that almost 20% of the world’s oxygen is released by the Amazon forests, this is indeed a scary alarm bell.
Some contemporary deforestation concerns
The burgeoning population and the corresponding needs – With more and more houses, consumer products, wood based stationary, and land for expanding fields being required with every passing year, the speed at which the green cover of the Earth is depleting is baffling. Moreover, the fact that these requirements are not likely to be subdued makes the situation all the scarier. As per a report by Rainforest Action Network, the US consumes almost one third of the world’s paper, despite the fact that is hosts just 5% of the global population. Clear cutting and burning of trees are among the most violent methods of deforestation being followed on a large scale in the present times. A statement issued by the Natural Resources Defense Council compares such activities with volcanic eruptions.
The trouble it’s all leading to
Messed up carbon cycles leading to environmental imbalances – Whereas trees and forest covers are relied upon for absorbing a bulk proportion of the megatons of carbon gases produced by industrial and household activities on a daily basis, they actually become a source of carbon gases when burnt! This is already causing terrible ecological disturbances.
Endangered and extinct species – With little forest cover for accommodation and sustenance, several species of birds and animals are becoming extinct with each passing year. Not only is this a huge diversity void, but also hits the medical fraternity hard.
Dryer climates – Forests have a lot to contribute towards the maintenance of the water cycles. No trees means limited release of water into the atmosphere, which further implies dryer climates!