Deforestation is permanent destruction of forests to avail land for human and animal use. Also, one may term it as long-term conversion of forests to different ecosystems such as agricultural or urbanized land. It would be a misconception to conclude that deforestation is a recent occurrence. The act of cutting down trees is as old as the quest of a human for shelter, warmth, and food. Deforestation gained momentum especially to the targeted tropical regions of the world from the 1950s. However, this has intensified in the mid-twentieth century as compared to the previous ages. Today the environment is more sensitive as a result of this menace, and globally people are suffering from the irreversible damages caused by the act. The world can only have a glimpse of what has been lost as the history of deforestation is long, complex and veiled in mystery. Nevertheless, today we are continuously feeling the effects of change in our ecosystem and planet. The world has continuously joined hands to at least stop further cutting down of trees for the sake of ourselves and the future generations.
History of deforestation
Looking at the history of deforestation might sound exciting and peculiar, but it is as significant as looking at its consequences. Everyone is busy talking and critiquing the disappearance of tropical forests but remain discreet on how we got to that point. Initially, the world was covered in forest and grassland. But humans started to destroy the trees for their own good changing the entire ecosystem. For instance, the earliest evidence of animal and plant extinction caused by deforestation dates backs some 4000 years ago. Humans are known to have deforested land in most parts of the world over 11500 years ago. However, the history of deforestation varies from one region to the other. For instance, in most parts of Europe, the anthropogenic clearance of land was to create space for farming and grazing during the mid-Holocene (Kettle and Lian, p.5). Also, the European settlers began to harvest exotic timber in South America around 1600 while cattle ranching began after Portuguese and Spanish colonization. In Brazil deforestation accelerated after 1970 especially in the Amazon. In Portugal, deforestation started much earlier that around the sixteenth century and continued until the 1950s.
Drivers of deforestation
In most of this parts clearing of forests intended to create space for grazing and farming. Wood was also in demand especially the indigenous trees. With the industrial revolution, forests were victimized as the application for timber increased. People relied on wood for furniture and building. Also, the creation of highly valuable products from trees such as oil from palm trees resulted in massive destruction of forests. Expansion of industries and creation of modern cattle ranches also lead to the clearing of more land (Grebner et al., p.362). In the underdeveloped countries, trees were the primary source of fuel, and burning of charcoal continues to raise concern and threaten the surviving forests in these countries.
Effects and destruction to our ecosystem and planet
Humans have dramatically transformed the earths surface, its natural biomass, and ecosystem. The process has been continuing for long but accelerated for the last two centuries especially in the last two decades (Kettle and Lian, p.20). Today the alteration of the native habitat continues apace. The ecosystem has been razed and bulldozed until only small remnants of the original vegetation are surviving. The entire ecosystem is imperiled, and it has been difficult for it to recover the following overexploitation for the past centuries. Among the major impacts of deforestation is a change of climatic patterns. Global warming is the long-term distribution of precipitation and heat on the surface of the earth. The rise in earths average temperature can no longer support some natural lives and sustain reservoirs of water. Other changes experienced and linked to deforestation include raising of ocean currents and fall of acidic rains due to high accumulation of carbon (IV) oxide.
Most of the earth deforestation involves the destruction of tropical forests which are rich in biological species. A score of this species has endemic distribution leaving them vulnerable to extinction in case their habitat interferes. In fact, over seventy percent of worlds animals and plants live in forests and are losing their habitat. Therefore, deforestation is an enemy and leads to loss of biodiversity. Trees also play a significant role in water cycle as they absorb rainfall and give out water vapor to the atmosphere (Auerbach, para 2). For example, in Amazon, more than half of the water in the ecosystem is held within the plants (Auerbach, para 3). Other effects of deforestation include extensive soil erosion due to lack of land cover, interference with water chemistry due to the erosion of soil nutrients and indirect spread of spread of diseases as animals and birds move to seek for a sustainable ecosystem.
Changes to address deforestation
There are various ways individuals can reduce deforestation to create a habitable environment for the future generations. People should take part in tree planting programs within various institutions and organizations. Schools, companies, and leaders need to initiate the programs annually to increase the number of trees and replace those that have been cut. Institutions need to go paperless. There has been growth in technology that has replaced most activities and storage of information that was previously done on paper (Hojas-Gascon et al., p.2). Therefore, most organizations can work without the need of using paper which will save trees. On the other hand, papers that have already been refined can be recycled and reused instead of refining new paper that will result in tree cutting. On the hand, people need to come up with innovative means to make furniture among other items that require wood to make them. It will stop any deforestation steps to get wood for such purposes. The government needs to implement strict measures on the deforestation activities, and massive fines need to be imposed on people who take part in the activities.
Deforestation began about 4000 years ago, and some of the factors that have led to its occurrence include the expansion of industries, high demand of wood and some trees being sources of precious oils. It has caused global warming, climatic changes over the years and extinction of some tree species due to consistent deforestation activities in some areas (Grebner et al., p. 362). There are however steps that can be taken to address deforestation. The government needs to restrict cutting of trees, impose hefty fines on those who go against the policy as well as people going paperless to reduce their reliance on trees for day-to-day activities. It is the responsibility of each to take part in conserving the remaining trees and take part in tree planting for the future generation.
Auerbach, S. (2015). Deforestation Effects on Ecosystems. Sciencing.com. Retrieved 15 March 2017, from http://sciencing.com/deforestation-effects-ecosystems-8845.html
Grebner, Donald L, Pete Bettinger, and Jacek P. Siry. Introduction to Forestry and Natural Resources. , 2013. Internet resource.
Hojas-Gascon, Lorena, et al. Monitoring deforestation and forest degradation in the context of REDD+: Lessons from Tanzania. Vol. 124. CIFOR, 2015.
Kettle, Chris J., and Lian Pin Koh, eds. Global forest fragmentation. CABI, 2014.
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