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Causes and Effects of Deforestation

Updated on February 17, 2013

What is Deforestation

Deforestation means the loss or destruction of forests and trees, primarily due to human activities such as cutting trees for fuel, logging, mining, oil extraction, expansion of cities and other type of development, population expansion, and many more. The main aim behind all these reasons is ‘economic gains’. But in the process of doing so, we forget that all these economic gains are short lived, while the long-term damaging effects of deforestation are disastrous and irreversible.

Deforestation leads to permanent destruction of indigenous forests and woodlands. At present, we are losing forests at the rate of 1.7 crore hectares annually worldwide. The countries facing most of the deforestation include Africa, Latin America and South-East Asia.

Deforestation
Deforestation

Causes of Deforestation

  1. Logging – Logging is the process of cutting down the trees by a machine for forest management and timber. Logging can be legal as well as illegal.
  2. Shifting Cultivation – Shifting cultivation is one of the primary causes of deforestation. It is mainly practiced by landless indigenous people or tribal who cut the trees to grow crops.
  3. Over Grazing – Overgrazing is also among one of the primary causes of deforestation. Forests are cut down in order to create land for grazing cattle.
  4. Fuelwood Gathering – Fuelwood gathering is common in dry forests, especially in developing countries. Trees are cut down to be used as firewood, or turned into charcoal, which are used for cooking and heating purposes.
  5. Industrialization and Agribusiness – Cutting down of trees for the need of land for industrial, agricultural and living purposes is a major contribution to deforestation. Expansion of agribusiness that grows oil palm, rubber and ornamental plants has also resulted in deforestation.
  6. Other causes – Some miscellaneous causes of deforestation include – mining exploitation to make roads and highways, and acid rain.

Effects of Deforestation

  1. Climate change – Deforestation leads to global warming which is being caused largely due to the emission of green house gases like CO2 into the atmosphere.
  2. Loss of Biodiversity – Forests are natural habitats of many animals and organisms. So, when trees are cut down, many animals are left without shelters. Due to massive deforestation, about 50 to 100 species of animals are being lost each day.
  3. Soil Erosion – When trees are cut down, the soil gets exposed to sun, hence becoming infertile. When rainfall occurs, the nutrients in the soil get washed away with rain, thereby leading to soil erosion.
  4. Decreased Rainfall – Trees bring rain due to high transpiration and precipitation. So, if number of trees gets decreased, the amount of rainfall will also decrease.
  5. Flood and Drought – Deforestation can also lead to flood and drought. Human life may be endangered by floods that may be intensified by clearing the forests. Also after clearing the forests, the landmass gradually gets converted into sand deserts due to the action of strong winds, thus leading to drought.
  6. Loss of Medicinal Value Plants – There are many species of plants which are being used for medicinal purposes, for example, Neem (Azadirachta indica), Eucalyptus, etc. Deforestation might result in the extinction of these types of medicinal value plants.

Thus, we can say that deforestation adversely and directly damages the environment and affects the human life. To avoid this, we all should take an initiative of planting more and more trees to save our environment.

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