Deforestation occurs where land is cleared for palm oil plantations, soy bean cultivation, cattle farming, mines and the construction of roads and houses. Trees are also logged for timber, burnt as fuel, and pulped for paper products.
While the logging industry often replants the trees it harvests, when a forested area is cleared for agriculture, mining or to build housing, they are never replaced.
More than half of all deforestation is driven by the farming and mining industry. You can see how forests are being cleared at an alarming rate on the Global Forest Watch interactive deforestation map. Forests are cleared to have space to grow monoculture crops (like palm oil or soy), to graze cattle, or to build mines. The rest is caused by poor forest management (wildfires) and the spread of urban areas as new homes are built to handle our growing population.
What are the impacts of deforestation?
To give you an idea of the frightening scope of deforestation: every year, forests the size of Panama are lost forever, only 10% of Madagascar’s original forests remain. The worst hit areas include the rainforests in the Amazon, Borneo and the Congo Basin and in Far East Russia. The impacts are many from animal and plant extinction, to lower air quality and local poverty.
Thankfully, most of the logging industries around the world now replant the trees they cut down, but unfortunately, illegal logging in remote forests (particularly rainforests) is still a big problem. Compounding the problem, mining companies rarely replant cleared areas. Furthermore, the increasing number of wildfires worldwide combined with poor farming practices like overgrazing prevent the growth or regrowth of young trees.
Why is reforestation important?
Forests currently cover more than 30% of the earth’s surface, but this is decreasing at an alarming rate. Deforestation is when humans permanently remove forests through harvesting, logging or to clear land for farming and construction.
Forests are important for many reasons:
- More than 80% of animals live in or depend on forests and savannah, as well as more than 250 million people.
- Trees soak up carbon dioxide from our atmosphere. They act as carbon sinks and slow global warming.
- 20% of the world’s oxygen is provided by the trees in the Amazon.
- Tree roots hold the soil together and provide a protective layer over the bare earth. This again slows global warming, soaks up rainfall and prevents deadly floods and landslides.
How can you help?
Deforestation not only affects the people and animals who depend on the forests to live, but it also affects worldwide weather patterns, endangers rare animals like the Sumatran tiger, destroys the land through erosion, acidifies the oceans through the extra rainfall runoff, and may even affect your daily caffeine hit.
But there are several easy things you can do to help:
- Change shopping habits.
Buy products and furniture that use certified renewable wood resources, where the logging companies replant the areas they harvest.
- Recycle paper product
Purchase recycled paper products, products in recycled packaging and recycle your own paper goods.
- Be conscious of what you eat
Eat less meat and check ingredients lists when you shop to avoid products with palm oil and soy.
- Spread the word
Talk about deforestation with your friends and family, explain what it is and why it matters. Encourage them to help prevent deforestation too, just like you!
- Support reforestation projects
Support organizations that are working to prevent or rehabilitate deforestation, like the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) or Eden Reforestation Projects. You can either donate directly, or use services that support these good causes. With Givero, you can help plant trees while your search.