Deforestation is defined by Meriam Webster as “the act or result of cutting down or burning all the trees in an area.” But deforestation is much more than that. Deforestation means the destruction of vital habitat. It means lasting damage to the environment. It means endangered and undiscovered species are placed in jeopardy as their habitats are cleared away.
This article seeks to elaborate on the causes of devastation, the impact it has on local flora and fauna, and how you can make simple changes in your lifestyle to help combat deforestation.
Unfortunately, human activity is almost completely to blame for deforestation. The demand for natural resources is becoming increasingly strained as our population rises and our demand for consumer goods grows.
- Logging clears away trees and requires roads that cut deep into habitat. Even selective logging, which only fells the most valuable trees, causes damage to the canopy which is home to many tree-dwelling birds, animals, and insects.
- Agriculture demands wide, open spaces to plant crops or provide grazing pastures for livestock. To clear new space quickly, farmers often employ a technique known as “slash and burn” where they cut down the trees and burn them.
- Palm oil has also entered the market as a popular oil added to packaged foods. The growing demand for palm oil has driven the deforestation of tropical forests around the world. Indonesian and Malaysian forests have been especially devastated in the quest for palm oil.
- Urban sprawl occurs when human populations expand into areas that were previously left in their natural state. Urban sprawl is responsible for all kinds of habitat destruction, not just forests. Wetlands, prairies, lakes, and beaches can all be victims of urban sprawl.
Deforestation fundamentally changes the landscape and habitat of the area. By removing a key element of the natural environment, the delicate ecosystem is thrown off balance.
- When trees are removed, soil erosion can occur. Removing the complex root systems that held the soil in place means every heavy rain or windstorm that occurs will remove this nutrient-dense earth. This makes it much more difficult for anything to regrow where the forests once stood.
- Species could face extinction before we discover them. Each year, science finds new and amazing species on our planet, but deforestation is wiping out their habitat before we can even find them. National Geographic suggested that over 86% of Earth’s species are still unknown in 2011.
- Deforestation drives climate change by reducing the number of trees that can remove carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases from the atmosphere. Trees also play a big role in the Earth’s water cycle by returning water vapor to the air.
What You Can Do
Deforestation may seem like a problem too big for you to do anything about, but there are steps you can take in your routine which can make a big impact for our environment! Here are some of our favorites:
- Stop buying products that contain palm oil.
- Look for the Rainforest Alliance label on food products and choose them whenever available. For wood and products constructed from wood, look for Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification.
- Plant a tree!
- Recycle as much as you can, and buy products that are comprised of recycled fibers.
- Reach out to your local, state, and national representatives to tell them you are concerned about deforestation and environmental preservation. Get involved with a local activist group. Spread the word by helping to educate your family and friends on the importance of sustainable living.
Last but not least, you can donate to preserving vital habitat in the heart of the Amazon rainforest by donating to our Gift That Gives More. GreaterGood and The Rainforest Site are partnering with Rainforest Trust (formerly World Land Trust-US) on their most ambitious project to date – protecting 5.9 million acres of primary rainforest in the Sierra del Divisor Range in the heart of the Amazon Rainforest in Peru. This range, which is home to 16 primate species, provides habitat for many rare plants and animals whose survival depends on its protection.Whizzco