DEFORESTATION AND SPECIES LOSS
WHAT IS DEFORESTATION?
Deforestation is the process whereby natural forests are cleared through logging and/or burning, either to use the timber or to replace the area for alternative uses. 2.0
WHAT IS THE EXTENT OF DEFORESTATION?
12-15 million hectares of forest are lost each year, the equivalent of 36 football fields per minute. 3.0
WHAT ARE THE MAJOR CAUSES OF DEFORESTATION?
Deforestation can happen quickly, such as when a fire sweeps through the landscape or the forest is clear-cut to make way for an oil palm plantation. It can also happen gradually as a result of ongoing forest degradation as temperatures rise due to climate change caused by human activity. 3.1
Illegal logging occurs around the world, and in some places, illegal logging is more common than the legal variety. This destruction threatens some of the world’s most famous and valuable forests, including rainforests in the Amazon, Congo Basin, Indonesia and the forests of the Russian Far East. Illegal logging also depresses the price of timber worldwide, disadvantaging law-abiding companies, and depriving governments of revenues normally generated by duties and taxes. Poor communities near forests are often vulnerable when outsiders try to gain control over the timber nearby, which can lead to repression and human rights violations. 3.2
Fires are a natural and beneficial element of many forest landscapes, but they are problematic when they occur in the wrong place, at the wrong frequency or at the wrong severity. Each year, millions of acres of forest around the world are destroyed or degraded by fire. The same amount is lost to logging and agriculture combined. Fire is often used as a way to clear land for other uses such as planting crops. These fires not only alter the structure and composition of forests, but they can open up forests to invasive species, threaten biological diversity, alter water cycles and soil fertility, and destroy the livelihoods of the people who live in and around the forests. 3.3
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. 3.4
Shifting cultivation or Jhum is often blamed for destruction of forests. In fact it is poor fertility of soil which has given rise to such a pattern of farming. A small patch of tropical forest is cleared, vegetation slashed, destroyed and burned. Crops are grown as long as the soil is productive, after which the cultivation is abandoned and cultivators move on to fresh patch of land. The abandoned land was allowed to lay fallow for long periods during which regrowth of vegetation took place and natural ecosystem was restored. Shifting cultivators, therefore, worked in harmony with nature. However, the demands of growing population have shortened the fallow periods drastically. The soil is unable to regain its fertility before it is put to use again. This causes degradation of soil and failure of crops after crops. In Indonesia large number of people who have migrated from Java and other crowded islands have turned to shifting cultivation. Farming is attempted on cleared patch of soil before it is able to regain fertility. As crops fail more and more land is cleared of forests to be put to similar over-exploitation. The overall result is that lush green forests are being gradually replaced by barren waste land (Eckholm, 1991) 3.5
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