Trees are one of the most important aspects of the planet we live in. Trees are vitally important to the environment, animals, and of course for us humans. They are important for the climate of the Earth, as they act as filters of carbon dioxide and most importantly provide oxygen to us. Forests act as a habitat and shelters to millions of species. However, these trees are being depleted at a very fast rate. According to some estimates, more than 50 percent of the tree cover has disappeared due to human activity. Deforestation is the destruction of forests and woodlands. The term does not include the removal of industrial forests such as plantations of gums or pines. Deforestation has led to the reduction of forests to four-fifths of their pre-agricultural area. Forests now cover only 21% of the earth's land surface. The rate at which deforestation is occurring is of great concern. Currently, 12 million hectares of forests are cleared annually! Almost all of this deforestation occurs in the moist forests and open woodlands of the tropics. At this rate all moist tropical forest could be lost by the year 2050, except for isolated areas in Amazonia, the Zaire basin, as well as a few protected areas within reserves and parks. Some countries such as Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Costa Rica, and Sri Lanka are likely to lose all their tropical forests if no conservation methods are used. Although humans have practiced deforestation since ages, it was in the mid-1800s that forests began to be destroyed at an unprecedented rate. One of the most worrying factors today is the massive destruction of the rainforest of the world is affecting the biodiversity adversely, as well as being one of the major contributory factors to the ongoing Holocene mass extinction.
Causes of deforestation
The destruction and deforestation of the forests is occurring due to various reasons. Corruption at the government institutions, wealth and power due to harvesting of the riches of the forest, population growth and urbanization are some of the common causes. Others are urban construction, commercial purposes, illegal logging etc. However mining is one of the most prominent causes of deforestation. Deforestation is a consequence of over-exploitation of our natural ecosystems for space, energy and materials. Some other basic reasons for such extensive deforestation are: (1) Expansion of Agriculture:
Expanding agriculture is one of the most important causes of deforestation. As demands on agricultural products rise more and more land is brought under cultivation for which forests are cleared, grass-lands ploughed, uneven grounds leveled, marshes drained and even land under water is reclaimed. However, this expansion is usually marked with more ecological destruction than rationality. Governments often distribute land under forests to landless people, instead of redistributing already established farm-lands, howsoever, wasteful, unequal and unjust the distribution of ownership of land may be. During the process of clearing the land precious timber is simply burned. Ghana's 80% forests have disappeared but only 15% timber was harvested. Similarly in Brazil, little timber was extracted before the forests were burned for clearing the land. Nothing is done to assess the fertility of the forest soil before clearing it for farming. In tropical regions of the world as much of the mineral material is lodged in the plant biomass, its removal takes away a large part of nutrients. The soil being poorer is unable to support farming for long durations. Once agriculture fails, the cleared land is put to use as cattle ranches which too is a hopeless business. The bared soil is subjected to massive erosion and degradation leading to total deforestation. (2) Extension of Cultivation on Hill Slopes:
Outside humid tropical zone, in most of the third world countries, major forests often occur on hill tops and slopes. Though agriculture has...