Echo systems around the world help sustain life for millions of species. Echo systems that are mainly forests provide a home for a large majority of the species alive. Therefore the trees in these forests are considered to be the most important species. Although it is true, that most species are not able to sustain without each other.
There are many benefits that we get from our forests. Some of these include cleaner drinking water, a home for plants and animals, economic growth, clean air, recreational opportunities, reassuring future. Another benefit we get from trees is called oxygen. If there were no trees to give us oxygen to breath, we would not be able to live. So if you need one good reason why a forest should exist, staying alive is a pretty good reason.
CAUSES OF THE PROBLEM
Forests have many resources that people can use to raise their living standards. One example is the wood for building houses. Certain wood materials last a long time, they keep the house warm and make it easy to manufacture homes. Unfortunately the world is overpopulating and the demand for a higher standard of living is constantly on the rise. Therefore the demand for more resources is growing to levels that can not be sustained. Since forests provide a large portion of the world's resources, many forests are cut down or burned.
The cause for cutting down forests is directly associated with the high demand for wood to manufacture paper products and lumber for other manufacturing. We practically use wood for everything. It is used in home building, marine products, furniture and the list seems like it's endless. Just look around yourself right now and chances are you will find a product within your reach that is made of wood. Not only is wood a good building material, but it also has great aesthetic qualities. Most people appreciate a nice wooden dining table set or classic wooden rails on a staircase. Unfortunately we do not always take in to account how many trees need to be cut down so we can have these luxuries in our lives.
Another major direct cause for forest depletion is simply burning forests for farmland. This is more common with countries that are undeveloped and have tropical rainforests. Many poor farmers in these countries burn or cut small portions of tropical forests so they can have room for farming and cattle. But the big scale problem is created when huge corporate farms burn thousands of square acres a year. They need this much room so they can provide farming on a much larger scale to compete in the world market for food. The reason forests are burned for the farmland is due to the rich minerals fertility of the soil.
Unfortunately even the large scale farmers in undeveloped countries are not educated on how they can maximize their results when reusing the soil. Therefore the soil is used up and left as a desert while the farmers burn more forest to make another farm. The Amazon rainforest which is the largest in the world has fallen victim to such deforestations. This forest is located in South America where countries are having tough financial times. Brazil's market is a third of all the Latin countries included. Yet "Brazil's foreign debt, except in the most implausible of positive economic circumstances, is simply unsustainable in the years ahead" (CRF.org 2002). Economical pressure on a country is another big cause that will force a country to deforestation such as the case in Brazil. Basic Science and Remote Sensing Initiative (BSRSI) show data that between 1978 to 1988 230,000 square miles, nearly the size of Texas was affected by deforestation (bsrsi.msu.edu). That is 16.5% of the whole rainforest in the Amazon.
The next example shows the cause of deforestation for farming. According to The Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), "Between 1990 and 2001 the percentage of Europe's processed meat imports that came from Brazil rose from 40 to 74 percent" and by 2003 "For the first time ever, the growth in Brazilian cattle production-80 percent of which was in the Amazon-was largely export driven. " As more roads are built to provide access to forests in undeveloped countries more deforestation is evident.
EXTENT OF THE PROBLEM
As mentioned earlier, we get a large portion of our oxygen from vegetation such as trees. Since most trees live in forests it is important to realize the negative impact deforestation may have on our air quality. Carbon dioxide (CO2) is a gas that has an impact on the greenhouse effect. There is a cycle between CO2 producers such as cars and CO2 consumers such as plants. Together they create the "Global Carbon Cycle". The plants and soil of tropical forests hold 460-575 billion metric tons of carbon worldwide (McKane et al. 1995). From 1850 to 1990, deforestation worldwide released 122 billion metric tons of carbon into the atmosphere, with the current rate being between 1.6 billion metric tons per year (Skole et al. 1998). In comparison, all of the fossil fuels (coal, oil, and gas) burned during a year release about 6 billion tons per year. Therefore deforestation even when compared to all the other pollution plays a significant role in Global Warming and clean air.
Another extent of the problem with deforestation is a decrease in biodiversity. Biodiversity is important for Ecosystem sustainability, agriculture, medicine, recreation, aesthetic and commercial value. There are about 5 to 80 million species that live on this earth (Lawton and May 1995). Tropical rainforests cover about 7% of the world, but are home to more than half of the species living in the world. After a forest is cut down, many species can not live without it and possibly go extinct. Since we depend on these species for many resources, their extension will rob us of their benefits. Perhaps we might destroy the next cure for AIDS by deforestation and not know it.
The negative impacts of deforestation are getting noticed internationally. Many countries are taking steps to reduce the problem for a more sustainable earth. Unfortunately financial gain and high competition still exists with deforestation, and for some it's the only way of survival. Many people are not educated about the long term results their actions may cause. Because of these reasons deforestation is still a reality around the world in many countries.
With more international involvement, countries will take effective steps to bring deforestation to sustainable levels. But there is still a great deal of work to be done. For some forests it is still not too late to bring them back quicker. Other forests that have been clear-cut might take centuries to grow to the original state. Areas where pesticides were used it is possible that the echo system was damaged and may take a long time to grow again. Many forests were replaced by large banana plantations. These plantations use pesticides that kill many species that are vital for an echo system to sustain. Erosion caused by deforestation may bring more water pollution in the future and may affect agriculture in the area. Other reasons for deforestation are simply to provide room for paved roads, residential and commercial development that are caused by urban sprawl. These types of developments permanently destroy forests. Deforestation is a serious threat to life's future on our planet. It has major effects on our global climate. It leads to the loss of millions of species that are important in sustaining a living earth.
As we discussed the causes for deforestation, we realize how these causes are very different. Because the causes are often controlled by a countries economy, overpopulation and many other social reasons, it is impossible to find one solution to deforestation. Although there are many solutions, it will take time and cooperation of many different groups of people and organizations to make the solutions work.
One popular solution that has been in effect for a few decades is forest conservation. We can work internationally, regionally, and locally with organizations to develop policy and influence industries to help ensure a sustainable future for forests. Conservation helps protect, manage, and restore the world's most important forests by identifying threats and developing solutions to them.
Decrease the amount of products that are made as a result of deforestation. For example, using materials other than wood to build homes, furniture and other common products made of wood. Encourage recyclable materials so people do not go back to wood again. Switching from wood to other materials will decrease the demand / supply for wood.
Implement more efficient farming methods to encourage the reuse of land.
Educate people around the world about the negative impacts of deforestation, and what can be done to prevent it. Help finance more educational programs. Help countries make the right economic decisions.
Sign international treaties and make laws / regulations to control annual deforestation.
Import meat and dairy products from markets that do not cause deforestation.
The solution that I believe will be very effective is the second one. As far as cutting down trees, this is a very workable solution. We have too many products that are made of wood today. As economies grow around the world, the middle class will also grow. This middle class will demand more and more products that are made of wood. The American middle class is obsessed with wood products and we do not even realize it. A large portion of our homes are built from wood, and so is our furniture. Most cabinets alone require so much wood. If we like wood products so will the rest of the world.
The solution is to take the majority of the wood products and find alternative materials to them. This of course is not as easy as it sounds, but it is very doable. Once it is done, it will extremely decrease the demand for wood, therefore reducing deforestation. With such high advances in technology we can travel in space and replace hearts. Therefore it is possible to make materials that are safe for the environment and replace wood. Maybe even make materials that share most of the properties that wood has. We can even invent materials that imitate wood like the "burled wood" in our cars today. This "burled wood" in most cars is not even wood anymore, it is some kind of a plastic and a pattern to imitate the look of the wood. Speaking of the auto industry, I can not believe how advanced our cars have become. These are cars that we drive everyday. Yet we live in new houses that were built with an ancient method of wood and nails. I think that is ridiculous. Perhaps the solution to replace wood with alternative materials will also lead to more efficient assembly methods and a safer environment. And most importantly the first solution is changing our attitude to help prevent deforestation.
The Depletion of Forest Resources is a huge problem with challenging solutions, let us work as a team around the world to help solve these issues.