Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon and its Causes
Deforestation is the removal of a forest or stand of trees where the land is thereafter converted to a non rural use. Examples of deforestation consist of conversion of forestland to farms, ranches, or urban use. Between May 2000 and August 2006, Brazil lost nearly 150,000 square kilometres of forest—an area bigger than Greece—and since 1970, more than 600,000 square kilometres of the Amazon rainforest has been ruined. In quite a lot of tropical countries, the majority of deforestation results from the actions of poor subsistence farmers. However, in Brazil only about one third of recent deforestation can be linked to farmers that have moved. Historically, a large portion of deforestation in Brazil is due to land clearing for pastureland by commercial and exploratory interests, unwise government policies, inappropriate World Bank projects, commercial exploitation of forest resources, and farmers seeking to build cattle ranches so the better grazed cattle meat will sell for a higher price to big companies in Europe, for example, McDonald’s (burger meat). One of the numerous reasons that the rate of deforestation differs is because of the economy. The decline in deforestation from 1988-1991 matched the economic slowdown during the period, while the fast rising rate of deforestation from 1993-1998 equalled Brazil's period of rapid economic growth. During bad times, ranchers and developers do not have the cash to rapidly expand their operations, while the government doesn’t have enough funds to sponsor programs like highways and allow tax breaks. In addition, one of the major reasons is human settlement and the development of land. Large landowners clear huge sections of the Amazon for cattle land. Great areas of forest are cleared and are sometimes, for cattle feeding, planted with African savannah grasses. In a lot of cases, especially during times of high rise in prices, land is just cleared for investment purposes. When pastureland prices go beyond forest land prices, forest clearing is a good hedge against the price rise. Logging in the Amazon is apparently controlled by strict licensing which allows timber to be harvested only in designated areas. However, there is obvious evidence that illegal logging is quite widespread in Brazil. In recent years, Ibama (Brazil's environmental enforcement agency) has made several huge seizures of illegally harvested timber including one in September 2003 when 17 people were arrested for illegally cutting 10,000 hectares worth of timber. Furthermore, Brazil is currently the second-largest global producer of soybeans, behind the United States, mostly for export and biodiesel production, and as prices for soybeans rise, the soy farmers are pushing north into the forested areas of the Amazon. As stated in Brazilian legislation, clearing land for crops or fields is considered an ‘effective use’ of land and is the beginning towards land ownership. Lightning strikes cause many forest fires annually - leading to death, property loss, and environmental concerns. Although these natural issues contribute to deforestation, they play a fairly minor role, compared to other, man-made factors. Effects
When the forest areas are cleared, it results in exposing the soil to the sun, making it very dry and eventually, infertile, because of the unstable nutrients like nitrogen being lost. In addition, when there’s rainfall, it washes away the rest of the nutrients, which flow with the rainwater into waterways. Because of this, merely replanting trees may not help in solving the problems caused by deforestation, for by the time the trees mature, the soil will be totally devoid of essential nutrients. Ultimately, farming in this land will also become impossible, resulting in the land becoming useless. Large areas of land will be left permanently poor due to soil erosion. The local level is where deforestation has the most immediate effect. With forest...
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