What is Deforestation?
Updated: Sep 21st, 2022
The forests of the world are loaded with biodiversity, and they also play a critical role in protecting our atmosphere. But our forests are under threat! Explore this page to learn more about deforestation and how you can help ease the crisis!
The forests of the world are loaded with biodiversity, and also play a critical role in protecting our atmosphere from carbon dioxide.. Photo Credit: Getty Images
The Union of Concerned Scientists estimates that an area approximately the size of Switzerland is lost to deforestation each and every year.. Photo Credit: Getty Images
The Lungs of our Planet
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, forests cover more than 30 percent of the land on our planet.
They help people thrive by purifying the air we breath and the water we drink, and they provide a home for a large percentage of our terrestrial biodiversity on our planet, providing habitat for a vast array of plants, animals, and insects. But even more importantly, (especially for humans!), forests play a critical role in maintaining the health of our atmosphere. This happens because living trees absorb carbon dioxide as they grow, mitigating and partially offsetting the greenhouse gases created by human activities. Scientists call this feature “carbon sequestration.” And it is defined as the capture and storage of excess carbon dioxide.
Of all the forests of the world, the tropical trees near the equator are considered the most important, because they provide the largest share of the climate mitigation that we need to protect our atmosphere. Because of this important characteristic people often refer to them as the ‘lungs of our planet.’
The tropical trees provide the largest share of the climate mitigation we need to protect our atmosphere. This photo is a Cloud Forest in Central Africa. Photo Credit: Getty Images
Forests Under Threat!
According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, an area of our planet approximately the size of Switzerland is lost to deforestation each and every year!
And while there are many human-caused factors leading to deforestation, to keep it simple for now, in this article we are just going to take a look at a few of the most important ones. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a majority of the tropical deforestation occurring today can be traced primarily to just four globally traded commodities. These four commodities are wood products, palm oil, cattle ranching, and soybeans!
Consumption of tropical timber by the U.S plays a significant role in tropical deforestation, with much of it being harvested illegally and then sold to customers like you and I, right here in the U.S.A.
The World Wildlife Fund informs us that “the increasing global demand for low-cost timber products supports a multi-billion dollar business of illegal and unsustainable logging in forests worldwide . . . and the consumption of tropical timber by the U.S. and other industrial countries plays a significant role in tropical deforestation.”
Palm oil is a commonly produced vegetable oil and it is found in a staggering amount of supermarket products. It can be produced cheaply, it’s versatile, and it can be added to a number of food and personal products ranging from everything from bread, to dough, chips, soaps, detergents, lipsticks, and even shampoo!
The popularity and usefulness of palm oil in such a wide array of products is spurring people to clear large areas of tropical rainforests to grow palm trees. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, transforming the palm industry is an important task we need to undertake to reduce the risk of climate change.
Palm oil is a commonly produced vegetable oil and it is found in a staggering amount of supermarket products.. Photo Credit: Getty Images
According to the World Wildlife Fund, beef production is a primary driver of deforestation in the Amazon region. This is primarily because the country of Brazil has grown to become the largest beef exporter in the entire world! Cattle ranching is spurring rampant deforestation in the Amazon, where coveted rainforest land is being converted to pastureland for grazing!
The popularity of soybean oil and other soy derivatives in food for humans has created a world-wide demand for soy, and the demand is expected to grow with each passing decade! Soy is popular because of its use in things like biofuels, as well as in products such as vegetable oil, soy sauce, tofu, and tempeh.
But in spite of all of these different uses, the primary reason for farmers to grow soy is actually to use it as as animal feed. According to the World Wildlife Fund, the use of soy as animal feed accounts for approximately 80 percent of soybean production world-wide. For this reason the cultivation of soy is intimately linked to cattle ranching, (and animal agriculture in general). And thusly, it is considered to be a major driver of tropical deforestation,- especially in the sensitive amazon basin!
A legume native to East Asia, the cultivation of soybeans is another major driver of deforestation,- especially in the Amazon basin.. Photo Credit: Getty Images
Soybeans are grown primarily to feed cattle, and their usefulness is encouraging people to clear tropical rainforests to grow more soy.. Photo Credit: Getty Images
The Amazon Conservation Organization estimates that, at the current pace, more than half of the Amazon rainforest is likely to be destroyed by the year 2030.
Brazil has become the largest exporter of beef in the world, spurring rampant deforestation in the Amazon region for cattle grazing.. Photo Credit: Getty Images
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