Deforestation Causes and Effects

In this article we will discuss what is deforestation, and Deforestation Causes and Effects.

DEFORESTATION: Deforestation is a very broad term, which consists of cutting of trees including repeated lopping, felling, and removal of forest litter, browsing, grazing and trampling of seedlings. It can also be defined as the removal or damage of vegetation in a forest to the extent that it no longer supports its natural flora and fauna.

The rapid rate of deforestation in the tropics is a key driving force in the yearly increase of flood disasters.

Deforestation refers to the loss of tree cover; land that is permanently converted from
forest to non-forest uses such as agricultural pasture, desert, and human settlement.


Deforestation Causes and Effects

Causes of Deforestation

The most common reason for deforestation is cutting of wood for fuel, lumber and paper. Another important cause relates to the clearing of forest land for agriculture, including conversion to crop land and pasture.

The main causes of deforestation are:

  • Agriculture
  • Shifting cultivation
  • Demand for firewood
  • Wood for industry and commercial use
  • Urbanization and developmental projects
  • Forest Fires:

Agriculture

The expanding agriculture is one of the most important causes of deforestation. Man has always modified the natural ecosystems in such a way that environment becomes more favorable for crop growth whether using traditional or modern methods of agriculture.

As demands for agricultural products rises, more and more land is brought under cultivation and for that more forests are cleared, grasslands and even marshes, and lands under water are reclaimed.

Thus, there is much more ecological destruction than gain in term of crop yield. The forest soil after clearing are unable to support farming for long periods due to exhaustion of nutrients. Once the soils become unfit for cultivation, the area suffers from to soil erosion and degradation.

Shifting cultivation

Hunting and gathering has been the main form of sustenance practiced in the earlier
periods of human history. Shifting cultivation or Jhoom farming is a 12000-year old practice and a step towards transition from food collection to food production.

It is also known as slash and-burn method of farming. Annually about 5 lakhs ha (hectares) of forest is cleared for this type of farming. In this type of cultivation there is a limited use of tools with not very high level of mechanization.

However, this method of cultivation causes extreme deforestation, as after 2-3 years of
tilling, the land is left to the mercy of nature to recover.

This type of cultivation was always meant to fulfil local needs or onsite demands to meet
the requirements of the cultivating villagers. Even today, shifting cultivation is practiced in the states of Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Tripura and Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

Demand for firewood

Firewood has been used as a source of energy for cooking, heating etc. Almost 44% of the total global wood produced fulfills the fuel requirements of the world. Close look at the pattern of utilization of wood produced will show that the developed countries utilize 16% of their share for fuel requirements. India consumes nearly 135-170 Mt (Million tonnes) of firewood annually and 10-15 ha of forest cover is being stripped off to meet the minimum fuel needs of urban and rural poor.

Wood for industry and commercial use

Wood, the versatile forest produce, is used for several industrial purposes, such as making crates, packing cases, furniture, match boxes, wooden boxes, paper and pulp, plywood, etc. 1.24 lakh ha of forest have been cut for various industrial uses.

Unrestricted exploitation of timber as well as other wood products for commercial purposes is the main cause of forest degradation. The paper industry accounts for about 2% of country’s annual consumption of wood and 51% this requirement is met by bamboo wood. This has led to the depletion of bamboo stocks in most of the peninsular India.

For example, the apple industry in the Himalayan region has led to the destruction of fir and other tree species, for making wooden boxes used for transporting apples. Similarly,
plywood crates were used for packing particularly tea and other produce.

Urbanization and developmental projects

Often urbanization and developmental activities lead to deforestation. The process of
deforestation begins with building of infrastructure in the form of roads, railway lines,
building of dams, townships, electric supply etc. Thermal power plants, mining for coal,
metal ores and minerals are also important causes of deforestation.

Forest Fires:

Another example would be forest blazes; Hundreds of trees are lost each year due to forest fires in various portions of the world. This happens due to extreme warm summers and milder winters. Fires, whether causes by man or nature results in huge loss of forest cover.


Effects of Deforestation

  • Climate Imbalance
  • Increase in Global Warming
  • Soil Erosion
  • Floods
  • Wildlife Extinction

Climate Imbalance:

Deforestation also affects the climate in more than one ways. Trees release water vapor in the air, which is compromised on with the lack of trees. Trees also provide the required shade that keeps the soil moist.

This leads to the imbalance in the atmospheric temperature further making conditions for the ecology difficult. Flora and fauna across the world are accustomed to their habitat. This haphazard clearance of forests has forced several of these animals to shift from their native environment. Due to this several species are finding it difficult to survive or adapt to new habitats.

Increase in Global Warming:

Trees play a major role in controlling global warming. The trees utilize the greenhouse
gases, restoring the balance in the atmosphere. With constant deforestation the ratio of
greenhouse gases in the atmosphere has increased, adding to our global warming woes.

Soil Erosion:

Also due to the shade of trees the soil remains moist. With the clearance of tree cover, the soil is directly exposed to the sun, making it dry.

Floods:

When it rains, trees absorb and store large amount of water with the help of their roots.
When they are cut down, the flow of water is disrupted and leads to floods in some areas
and droughts in other.

Wildlife Extinction:

Due to massive felling down of trees, various species of animals are lost. They lose their
habitat and forced to move to new location. Some of them are even pushed to extinction. Our world has lost so many species of plants and animals in last couple of decades.


STRATEGIES TO REDUCE DEFORESTATION

  •  Reduce population growth and increase per capita incomes
  •  Reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD and REDD+)
  •  Increase the area and standard of management of protected areas
  •  Increase the area of forest permanently reserved for timber production
  •  Increase the perceived and actual value of forests
  •  Promote sustainable management
  •  Encouraging substitutes
  •  Increase area of forest plantation
  •  Strengthen government and non-government institutions and policies
  •  Participatory forest management and rights
  •  Increase investment in research, education and extension
  •  Improve the information base and monitoring
  •  Policy, legislative and regulatory measures-enforcement and compliance

 

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