Effects of Deforestation


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