Destruction of the Rainforest

Topics: Tropical rainforest, Rainforest, Forest Pages: 6 (1942 words) Published: November 8, 2006
The tropical rain forests once blanketed the Earth like a wide green belt around the equator. Just a few thousand years ago forests covered 14 percent of the Earth's land surface, or 5 billion acres. Humans already have destroyed half of this rain forest area, with most damage occurring in the last 200 years. Many of the main causes of the rainforest destruction include: logging, agriculture-shifted, cultivators, agricultures-cash, crops and cattle, ranching, fuelwood, large dams, mining and industry, colonization schemes, and tourism. In most cases, this is untrue due to the nature of rainforests and of logging practices. Large areas of rainforest are destroyed in order to remove only a few logs. The heavy machinery used to penetrate the forests and build roads causes extensive damage. Trees are felled and soil is compacted by heavy machinery, decreasing the forest's chance for regeneration. The felling of one selected tree, tears down with it climbers, vines, epiphytes and lianas. A large hole is left in the canopy and complete regeneration takes hundreds of years. Removing a felled tree from the forest causes even further destruction, especially when it is carried out carelessly. It is believed that in many South East Asian countries, "between 45-74% of trees remaining after logging have been substantially damaged or destroyed" (WWF). The tracks made by heavy machinery and the clearings left behind by loggers are sites of extreme soil disturbance which begin to erode in heavy rain. This causes siltation of the forests, rivers and streams. The lives and life support systems of indigenous people are disrupted as is the habitat of hundreds of birds and animals. Little if any industrial logging of tropical forests is sustainable. The International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO), the body established to regulate the international trade in tropical timber, found in 1988 that the amount of sustainable logging was on a world scale, "negligible". Logging roads are used by landless farmers to gain access to rainforest areas. For this reason, commercial logging is considered by many to be the biggest single agent of tropical deforestation. Apart from its direct impact, logging plays a major role in deforestation through the building of roads which are subsequently used by landless farmers to gain access to rainforest areas. These displaced people then clear the forest by slashing and burning to grow enough food to keep them and their families alive, a practice which is called subsistence farming. This problem is so widespread that Robert Repetto of the World Resources Institute ranks commercial logging as the biggest agent of tropical deforestation. This view was supported by the World Wide Fund for Nature's 1996 study, Bad Harvest?, which surveyed logging in the world's tropical forests. Most of the rainforest timber on the international market is exported to rich countries. There, it is sold for hundreds of times the price that is paid to the indigenous people whose forests have been plundered. The timber is used in the construction of doors, window frames, crates, coffins, furniture, plywood sheets, chopsticks, household utensils and other items. Please keep in mind that The Rainforest Information Centre provides information to consumers wishing to avoid tropical and other environmentally damaging timbers. Needless to say, Agriculture - Shifted Cultivators is another problem the tropical rainforest is faced with. "Shifted cultivators" is the term used for people who have moved into rainforest areas and established small-scale farming operations. These are the landless peasants who have followed roads into already damaged rainforest areas. The additional damage they are causing is extensive. Shifted cultivators are currently being blamed for 60% of tropical forest loss (Colchester & Lohmann). The reason these people are referred to as 'shifted' cultivators is that most of them have been forced off their own land....

References: Colchester and Lohmann (Ed), The struggle for Land and the
Fate of the Forest, 1993, Zed Books, London.
World Rainforest Movement, Rainforest Destruction: Causes,
Effects and False Solutions, 1990, World Rainforest
Myers, N., The Primary Source: Tropical Forests and Our
Future (updated for the Nineties), 1992, Norton, New York.
Rainforest Information Centre, The Australian Rainforests
of West Africa: Ecology, Threats, Conservation, 1991, Birkhauser, Basle.
Collins, Sayer & Whitmore (Ed), The Conversation Atlas of
Tropical Forests: Asia, 1992, Macmillan, London.
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