Causes and Effects of Deforestation

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Lesson II – Effects of Deforestation

Deforestation is the removal or destruction of large areas of forest or rainforest. Deforestation happens for many reasons, such as logging, agriculture, natural disasters, urbanization and mining. There are several ways to clear forest -- burning and clear-cutting the land are two methods. Although deforestation occurs worldwide, it's a particularly critical issue in the Amazon rainforests of Brazil. There, the tropical forests, and the species of plants and animals within them, are disappearing at an alarming rate. In December 2007, for example, experts measured Amazon destruction at more than 360 square miles (932 square kilometers) in just one month.

The effects of deforestation are long lasting and devastating. Entire species of insects and animals have disappeared because of the destruction of their habitats. Deforestation can cause catastrophic flooding as well. And scientists see that deforestation has a significant effect on climate change, or global warming.

If deforestation is so destructive, then why is it even done? What's driving the destruction of forests?

Causes of Deforestation

For the most part, human activity is to blame for deforestation, though natural disasters do play a role. So let's take a look at how and why humans deforest areas.

Logging, or cutting down trees in a forest to harvest timber for wood, products or fuel, is a primary driver of deforestation. Logging affects the environment in several ways. Since trucks and large equipment need to get into the forest in order to access trees and transport timber, loggers must clear large areas for roadways. Selective logging -- where only the most valuable trees are felled -- doesn't help matters, as one falling tree can bring down dozens of surrounding trees and thin the forest's protective canopy [source: Butler]. The forest canopy is important to the forest's ecosystem because it houses and protects plant, animal and insect

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