Deforestation Mitigation Strategies
Tropical rainforests cover approximately thirty percent of the earth’s land area, around 2.5 million square miles, the size of the lower 48 states, despite the fact 80,000 acres (32,000) hectares are destroyed per day for economic reasons. Tropical rainforests are biodiversity hotspots. Rainforests are carbon sinks absorbing about half the carbon dioxide humans release into the atmosphere. Continued deforestation will affect the entire world with the ecological ramifications of species extinction, loss of carbon sinks, and loss of renewable resources. Deforestation reduces the availability of renewable resources like medicinal plants, timber, nuts and fruit, and indigenous game. Over time, loss of rainforests can affect the global climate and biodiversity (National Geographic, 2010). The destruction of the rainforest can be slowed and completely reversed in some cases. People of developed countries know something needs to be done, but know it is not an easy undertaking because of the economic pressures under-developed and poverty-stricken countries the rainforests are typically located. Therefore, the solution to deforestation must be based on practicality as well as feasibility in developing new policies for forest conservation, forest sustainability, and reforestation (Conservation International, 2010). New strategies need to be implemented because past efforts of rainforest conservation have failed, as proven with the rapid rise in deforestation in some regions. Closing the rainforest or making the forests into parks or reserves does not help the local economies, or give the locals any opportunities to improve their quality or standard of living. Past efforts have not discouraged farmers from burning large parcels of forest every year to create pasture for cattle grazing or land for agricultural use or illegal loggers and developers from clear-cutting the forests for timber and urbanization (National Geographic, 2010). Rainforests will only continue if tangible economic incentives for the local economies can be generated from the plants and animals already in the forests. Local people and the governments of the countries need to realize some immediate financial gain to justify the cost of maintaining the forests and ultimately this tremendous diverse bioecosystem. Since the rainforests are typically located in the poorest countries of the world, the people’s day-to-day survival is predicated on the natural resources obtained from the rainforest, living off the land, making use of what resources they know how to utilize for food and shelter. Because of such impoverishment, it costs not only their lives, but their countries’ natural renewable resources and costs the world the ecosystem services provided by the rainforest; e.g., flood control, erosion prevention, fisheries protection, and the reduction of carbon emissions. One-fifth of global greenhouse gas emissions come from the 13 million hectares of forest destroyed annually. This amount of greenhouse gas is a greater share than the entire world's trucks, cars, ships, and airplanes combined (Powers, 2009). In these impoverished countries, it is easy for their governments to neglect the continued destruction of the rainforests because of the lack of a viable alternative that would ensure economic development as well as maintaining the ecosystem. Conserving the rainforests in these countries require addressing conflicts of the day-to-day needs of the local people and the long-term ecological needs of the world. Forest loss has remain fairly constant over the years, with a shift from deforestation caused by individual farmers using the method of slashing and burning land parcels to grow crops for subsistence agriculture to cattle ranchers clearing land for cattle pasture. Today humanity needs to be concerned how to use already cleared land to become sustainable farms for the small individual farmer and for the larger cattle rancher....
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