Deforestation is the process of cutting down or otherwise removing areas of forest. It can be done for many reasons, but it has devastating effects on the environment if it is not matched with equal reforestation (i.e. tree planting) projects.
Deforestation is one of the key environmental issues that we need to tackle in the present day. Make sure that you know what it’s all about by reading through these facts about deforestation.
1. Currently only 20% of trees on earth are protected by conservation laws and projects which prevent them from being chopped down. That means that the vast majority of the earth’s trees are at risk from deforestation.
2. Rain forests are being chopped down at such an alarming rate that several scientists have estimated that within 100 years there will be no rain forests at all left on earth unless we act to halt the rate of deforestation.
3. Around 30% of the earth’s surface is covered by forests, so it is clear that forests are a very important part of our ecosystem.
4. Every second, on average 1.5 acres of forest will be cut down worldwide.
5. Put another way, we can visualize this in the following manner: every minute, 20 football fields’ worth of trees is cut down. That is a huge amount!
6. Half of the tropical forests that used to exist in the world have already been deforested by human beings.
7. Almost all deforestation is caused by humans. Even taking into account events such as wildfires which can destroy parts of forests, humans are still the reason behind the vast majority of deforestation.
8. Deforestation projects are pursued for several reasons. The key reasons include felling timber for use in wooden furniture and as fuel, felling timber for use in paper making, cutting down trees to make space for agricultural land, and cutting down trees to make space for human settlements.
9. Developed nations are the main culprits when it comes to deforestation. They consume most of the world’s paper and timber and as a result they are to blame for a larger share of deforestation. Take the United States, for example. Despite comprising just 5% of the total population of the world, the US is responsible for 30% of paper consumption.
10. Deforestation accelerates climate change because trees have the power to trap carbon from the atmosphere.
11. Deforestation also results in significant soil erosion. Tree roots are part of a delicate ecosystem and one of their capabilities is keeping the soil of the forest floor in place. When an area is deforested, it can quickly become desert like as the soil is washed away by rain or swept away by wind, and nothing can grow there in a stable fashion.
12. Developing nations are also responsible for deforestation. For example, in Sub Saharan Africa, deforestation is largely performed in order to get wood for fuel. This fuel wood is consumed at a rate of 200% more than the rate at which trees are being cut down. The result? Large swathes of forest are lost, without being replaced.
13. Deforestation, particularly of tropical rain forests, will accelerate the extinction of many precious animals and plants. Though these rain forests only cover between 6% and 7% of the surface of the earth, they are home to around 50% of the plant and animal species on earth. This makes deforestation devastating from an animal conservation point of view.
14. Swapping to a vegan diet can help to halt deforestation. This is because one key cause of deforestation is humans clearing forests to make way for animal agriculture: planting fields of animal feed instead, and marking out spaces for farmed animals to be kept. If everyone in the world went vegan, there would be no demand for this deforestation.
15. You can help to halt deforestation right now by purchasing a plot of forest land online.
16. You can also help to halt deforestation by lobbying companies like supermarkets, asking them to stop using so much unnecessary paper and cardboard packaging.
17. Another way to halt deforestation is to send emails rather than letters, and to avoid printing things out unnecessarily.
18. The extent of deforestation’s impact on biodiversity is estimated to be huge. At the current rate of deforestation, it is estimated that within 25 years up to 2, 800 species will become extinct as a direct result of deforestation. Some of these species will not have been discovered or documented yet – we will never have known them.
19. Deforestation also impacts negatively on our ability to cure humanity’s diseases. For example, the Amazon rainforest is home to 25% of the organisms that help us to fight cancer.