It is a fact that our earth is fast losing its green cover; forests provide us with valuable resources, help to recycle carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere, provides natural habitat and forms an ecosystem for several native flora and fauna. Given all this and the current context where we are facing the issue of global warming, one would think that governments worldwide would have put a halt to widespread deforestation but the opposite seems to have taken place. According to WWF, the earth loses over 18.7 million acres of forests each year; this estimate had been revised upwards from last year but should give you an idea as to how serious the issue is and why we need to take a closer look at the positive and negative impact of deforestation, right away.
The positive impact of deforestation:
- Arable land: Clearing forested land enables farmers to use the same, to grow various food crops. Moreover, the topsoil is packed with all the natural nutrients as a result of prolonged forest cover, and decomposition which helps to fertilize the soil and acts as a natural fertilizer. Most farmers are able to utilize forested lands and produce a better yield than before.
- Lumber: The fact remains that with global population hitting a new high, the demand for lumber has shot up. People need homes and wood is one of the basic construction materials which is necessary for the construction of the same. And while governments worldwide are adopting various methods to reduce the demand for lumber by adopting synthetic wood in the construction of buildings, the demand for natural lumber remains at an all-time high. And deforestation provides companies with a ready supply of valuable wood, enabling them to meet the current demand for the same.
- Agriculture: Farmers have started clearing vast tracts of forests by adopting the slash and burn methodology; this, in turn, increases the fertility of the soil and provides them with better yield and productivity. In fact, most of the smog crisis that hit Asia and especially China last year during winter was a result of active deforestation taking place and the resultant smoke helped contribute to the smog which soon rolled over Beijing last year.
The negative impact of deforestation:
- Climate change: Our forests act as a natural driver, one that helps to soak all the excess carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. And given the current state of deforestation and the fact that the global climate is already undergoing a change, it is to be expected that we may experience more aberrant weather as the greenhouse gases build up in the atmosphere. As more acres of green forests are cleared, to make way for industries and various farms, the ability of such forests to soak up excess carbon dioxide from the atmosphere is impacted, which in turn accelerates global warming and the buildup of these greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
- Loss of natural habitat: One of the negative effects of deforestation is the destruction of natural habitats which is home to several native floras and fauna which is endemic to the region concerned. And most of these species are not able to adapt to the loss of the natural habitat and as a result, become extinct in a matter of a few years. As a matter of fact, deforestation is one of the reasons for several animals to become endangered, from orangutans, Asian elephants, rhinos and more.
- Loss of natural cover: Most forest lands come with thick foliage which prevents sunlight from drying up the topsoil, thereby making them all the more fertile. But rapid deforestation and the loss of this natural cover often results in such lands being exposed to sunlight and the resultant drying out, which often leaves them depleted of natural nutrients and the soil, not as arable or fertile as before.
- Flooding and erosion: Without the forest acting as a natural barrier, most of the deforested lands are often subject to flooding which often manages to wash away the fertile topsoil. The erosion of the topsoil makes the land less fertile than before, which makes it all the harder to reclaim the land once the farmers abandon the land for greener pastures. Moreover, the ability of the soil to hold excess rainwater is lost as a result of the deforestation and this leads to more severe flooding in the nearby areas.
These are some of the positive and negative impacts of deforestation and if we do not take any affirmative action right now, we may soon lose our forest cover forever.