The subject of deforestation and the effects that it has on the
environment have been heavily debated for a long time; particularly over
the last few years. Governments and large lumber companies see large
profits in the mass deforestation of forests and state that their actions
are having few, if any, harmful effects on the environment. Most people
disagree with this and think that the environmental effects are
devastating and will become irreversibly disastrous in the very near
future. Whether or not the pros outweigh the cons will be hotly debated
for years to come but the fact is that deforestation is harmful to the
environment and leads to declining wildlife populations, drastic changes
in climate and loss of soil.
The loss of forests means the loss of habitats for many species.
Current statistics show that as many as 100 species become extinct every
day with a large portion being attributed to deforestation (Delfgaauw,
1996). "Edge effects" are the destruction or degradation of natural
habitat that occur on the fringes of fragmented forests. The effects for
the animals include greater exposure to the elements (wind, rain etc...),
other non-forest animals and humans (Dunbar, 1993). This unnatural
extinction of species endangers the world's food supply, threatens many
human resources and has profound implications for biological diversity.
Another negative environmental impact of deforestation is that it
causes climate changes all over the world. As we learned in elementary
school, plant life is essential to life on earth as it produces much of
the oxygen that is required for humans and other organisms to breathe.
The massive destruction of trees negatively effects the quantity and
quality of the air we breathe which has direct repercussions on the
quantity and quality of life among both humans and animals alike. With
this reduced amount of vital plant life comes the increase of carbon
dioxide levels in the earth's atmosphere. With these increased levels of
CO-2 come unnatural changes in weather patterns both locally and
globally. "The removal of forests would cause rainfall to decline more
than 26%. The average temperature of soil will rise and a decline of 30%
in the amount of moisture will evaporate into the atmosphere" (Delfgaauw,
1996). This leads to the global warming phenomenon which is also directly
related to the declining amounts of forest areas on the earth.
Soil erosion caused by deforestation is also a major concern among
even the most amateur environmentalists:
"When rain falls, some may sink to the ground, some may run off the
surface of the land, and flowing down towards the rivers and some may
evaporate. Running water is a major cause of soil erosion, and as the
forests are cut down, it increases erosion" (Delfgaauw, 1996).
The removal of wood causes nutrient loss in the soil, especially if the
period between harvests isn't long enough (Hamilton and Pearce, 1987).
Some areas also become "unbalanced" with the removal of tree roots as
this removal can cause serious mud slides and unstability which can be
seen in the in the tropical rain forests of Australia (Gilmour et al.,
1982; as cited in Hamilton and Pearce, 1987) and Malaysia (Peh, 1980; as
cited in Hamilton and Pearce, 1987). It should be mentioned that recent
logging techniques have decreased the amount of soil erosion under most
circumstances but it is nearly impossible to stop erosion from happening.
Whether or not you are a radical environmentalist or just a regular
citizen, the consequences of deforestation affect us all. Living in BC we
don't have to drive very far to see land that has been clear-cut or to
see massive protests by people of all ages who want to "save the forests"
or "save the environment". It is evident that reforestation projects are
underway and in many cases are quite successful. Millions of dollars are
spent each year (provincially, nationally and internationally) on
reforestation and many experts agree that this is helping provided that
the time between harvest is long enough for the area to mature properly.
The projections we hear through the media make the situation sound quite
bleak but the fact is that private and public awareness have lead to a
decreasing amount of deforestation activity (from what is projected) in
many areas such as the Brazilian Amazon Basin (Dunbar, 1993). Forests are
an important part of maintaining the earth's biological and ecological
diversity as well as major factors in the economic well being of many
areas. If we can maintain a balance between the two and continue the
reforestation efforts, the negative environmental affects could be
greatly reduced. Regardless, the negative environmental affects do exist
and the severity of them will be debated for many years to come.