The world’s rain forests could completely vanish in a hundred years at the current rate of deforestation.
Forests are cut down for many reasons, but most of them are related to money or to people’s need to provide for their families.The biggest driver of deforestation is agriculture. Farmers cut forests to provide more room for planting crops or grazing livestock. Often many small farmers will each clear a few acres to feed their families by cutting down trees and burning them in a process known as “slash and burn” agriculture.
Logging operations, which provide the world’s wood and paper products, also cut countless trees each year. Loggers, some of them acting illegally, also build roads to access more and more remote forests—which leads to further deforestation. Forests are also cut as a result of growing urban.
Not all deforestation is intentional. Some is caused by a combination of human and natural factors like wildfires and subsequent overgrazing, which may prevent the growth of young trees.
Deforestation has many negative effects on the environment. The most dramatic impact is a loss of habitat for millions of species. Seventy percent of Earth’s land animals and plants live in forests, and many cannot survive the deforestation that destroys their homes.
Deforestation also drives climate change. Forest soils are moist, but without protection from sun-blocking tree cover they quickly dry out. Trees also help perpetuate the water cycle by returning water vapor back into the atmosphere. Without trees to fill these roles, many former forest lands can quickly become barren deserts.
Removing trees deprives the forest of portions of its canopy, which blocks the sun’s rays during the day and holds in heat at night. This disruption leads to more extreme temperatures swings that can be harmful to plants and animals.
Trees also play a critical role in absorbing the greenhouse gases that fuel global warming. Fewer forests means larger amounts of greenhouse gases entering the atmosphere—and increased speed and severity of global warming.

Solutions

There is really no easy solution to deforestation. One possible solution is recycling. If more people recycle, there will be less dependence on disposable products like paper plates and paper towels. If there is no demand for these products there would be a decrease in the need for logging in the rainforests. Another possible solution to deforestation is the increase in the number of tree plantations. The rainforests destroyed by logging could also be replaced by new trees. In South America, the main area where deforestation occurs, there are currently no laws about deforestation. There are talks about a set of laws, but nothing is currently in place. If a law was made requiring loggers to plant new trees in place of the ones they cut down it would help the problem of deforestation.

The quickest solution to deforestation would be to simply stop cutting down trees. Though deforestation rates have slowed a bit in recent years, financial realities make this unlikely to occur.
A more workable solution is to carefully manage forest resources by eliminating clear-cutting to make sure that forest environments remain intact. The cutting that does occur should be balanced by the planting of enough young trees to replace the older ones felled in any given forest. The number of new tree plantations is growing each year, but their total still equals a tiny fraction of the Earth’s forested land.
If more and more people would get gas fireplaces there would be a smaller demand for firewood. Another way to help out the issue is creating an easier more convenient way to recycle. If more people would recycle that would cut down on the demand for new paper products. Some things are made from recycled paper, but that number could increase if more people would recycle. Deforestation is a major problem, and these ideas combined with global participation, could possibly slow it down.

Deforestation and Degradation

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the leading source for information on the status of the world’s forests, defines forests as land with a tree canopy cover of more than 10 percent and an area of more than half a hectare. FAO says that “forest” includes natural forests and forest plantations but specifically excludes stands of trees established primarily for agricultural production (i.e. fruit tree and oil palm plantations) and trees planted in agroforestry systems.
Other organizations use different standards for defining forests. For example, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) uses 40 percent cover as the threshold for “closed forests” and 10-40 percent cover for “open forests,” while the Tropical Ecosystem Environment Observations by Satellite (TREES) project—funded in the 1990s by the European Commission—classifies areas with more than 70 percent canopy cover as “dense forests” and those with 40-70 percent cover as “fragmented forest.”
To reduce confusion, this site will generally follow FAO’s convention, even though it has been criticized for its generous definition of what it considers forest.
FAO defines deforestation as “the conversion of forest to another land use or the long-term reduction of the tree canopy cover below the minimum 10 percent threshold.” Depletion of forest to tree crown cover greater than 10 percent (say from 90 percent to 12 percent) is considered forest degradation. Logging most often falls under the category of forest degradation and thus is not included in FAO deforestation statistics. For this reason, forest degradation rates are considerably higher than deforestation rates.
Digging a little deeper, FAO says that “deforestation includes areas of forest converted to agriculture, pasture, water reservoirs and urban areas,” but the term “specifically excludes areas where the trees have been removed as a result of harvesting or logging and where the forest is expected to regenerate naturally or with the aid of silvicultural measures.”

Deforestation vs. Degradation

Causes of Deforestation

  • Clear cutting for logging and pulpwood.
  • Forest conversión for permanent agricultura (palm oil plantations, soybean fields).
  • Large-scale shifting cultivation (i.e. slash-and-burn) where forest is not permitted to regenerate due to subsequent clearing
  • Forest conversion for permanent pasture.
  • Open pit mining and large-scale mining operations.
  • Clear-cutting for charcoal production.
  • Large roads and infrastructure projects.
  • Wildfires that destroy the forest Canopy.
  • Dam construction.
  • Volcanic eruptions.
  • Chemical defoliants.
  • Urban expansion.

Causes of Degradation

  • Most forms of logging for timber harvesting.
  • Small-scale shifting cultivation.
  • Over-grazing.
  • Small scale mining and associated pollution.
  • Over-harvesting for fuel wood.
  • Fragmentation from small roads.
  • Wildfires that burn leaf litter and small plants but leave canopy trees intact .
  • Over-harvesting of non-wood forest products (medicinal plants, foods, fibers).
  • Over-hunting.
  • Invasive species.
  • Oil pollution.
  • Storm damage.
  • Extreme drought.
  • Air pollution and acid rain.

Sources: BCB UWC, Rain Forest

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