Large scale tree cutting can lead to deforestation, a transformation of an area from forest to terrain with little vegetation. As logging (the practice of cutting down trees) continues to increase – in order to fuel supplies of lumber, paper, and other important materials – the global effects of deforestation continue to worsen, and it becomes harder and harder to combat these negative impacts.
Trees and forests are some of the greenest natural technology in the world as they absorb carbon dioxide through photosynthesis and help to balance the climate. Other plant species are also major sources of carbon sequestration, but forests face some of the greatest danger today because of accelerating logging practices and especially tropical deforestation in the Amazon rainforest.
Deforestation affects habitats, biodiversity, air quality, water ways, and nearly every other part of the natural world. Plants create oxygen and absorb greenhouse gasses, a vital process for ecological cycles. Forest loss not only impacts local communities and organisms, but it also actively contributes to global warming, ocean acidification, and natural disasters through climate change.
Forests capture billions of metric tons of carbon dioxide each year (acting as carbon sinks), helping to balance local and global atmospheric composition; forested land further supports water cycles and protects against soil erosion. They are a crucial aspect of environments everywhere.
The Amazon rainforest is home to over half of the world’s tropical rainforest, and nearly 60% of the Amazon is in Brazil. One country supports nearly a third of the world’s rainforest, and this translates into nearly a third of the most diverse and crucial land on the planet.
Cutting trees can result in the loss of habitat for animal species, which can harm ecosystems. According to National Geographic, "70 percent of Earth’s land animals and plants live in forests, and many cannot survive the deforestation that destroys their homes."
The loss of trees also increases the global impact of carbon emissions and the negative effects of climate change – which then contribute to greater deforestation creating a positive feedback loop.
Human activities continue to directly and indirectly drive the loss of millions of hectares of forest every year. Whether through logging and deforestation or the less immediate effects of pollution and land mismanagement, humans need to recognize their detrimental impact on this extremely important resource, so we can work towards improving habitats, air quality, health, and climate conditions for everyone.
Human activities often use large amounts of wood and tree products, but there are responsible ways to use trees and forests without permanently damaging the natural world. Forest management (called forestry) and ecology can be used to manage land and still derive resources from trees and ecosystems. This can mean only cutting down younger trees – leaving old growth trees which store massive amounts of carbon, or it can mean controlled burning for wildfire protection to help protect forest cover and habitats.
Life on Earth is inextricably linked to forests, and the protection and responsible usage of trees will be vital in reducing the impact of climate change and protecting biodiversity and ecosystems worldwide.
About the Author
Gregory Hamel has been a writer since September 2008 and has also authored three novels. He has a Bachelor of Arts in economics from St. Olaf College. Hamel maintains a blog focused on massive open online courses and computer programming.
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