Deforestation: Definition, Causes & Effects

Deforestation continues to be one of the major environmental issues of our time.

Definition of Deforestation
Definition of Deforestation / Ecolife

What is deforestation?

The term deforestation refers to the permanent, long-term conversion of an intact forest into land used for another purpose. Deforestation is threatening the health and quality of our earth, to potentially catastrophic effects, as trees and forest ecosystems are vital for a healthy planet.

Humans depend on forest ecosystems for so many natural services, including:

  • Climate change: Forests diminish the impacts of climate change by absorbing carbon dioxide and sequestering it in the form of bark, branches, and leaves. Deforestation is one of the main ways humans are contributing to global warming.
  • Nutrient and topsoil protection: By preserving important nutrients within a local ecosystem and preventing soil erosion, especially during period of heavy rain, forests play an important role in human health and survival.
  • Protecting biodiversity: Approximately 80% of all land-dwelling animals reside in forests. As forests are torn down, the spaces these creatures occupy become smaller, resulting in species endangerment and extinction.
  • Hydrologic cycle protection: By absorbing groundwater, trees release moisture into the atmosphere, helping to fuel global hydrologic cycles that create stable weather patterns and provide moisture for crops. Without forests, our climate will be much drier.

Causes of deforestation

Deforestation is happening for a variety of reasons. Trees are a fuel source, used as a building material, used for making paper products, they are felled and burned to make way for agricultural, residential, and industrial development, etc. Every year, a whopping 10 million hectares of forest are removed from the face of the planet.

Clear cutting is the most destructive form of deforestation. By obliterating all levels of a forest ecosystem with the use of heavy machinery that cuts down plants of all sizes and types it essentially kills any chance of the area recovering in the near future.

About 1.11 billion hectares of old-growth forest is left on our planet. As such, it is crucial that environmental activists and experts work together to protect the remaining forests and ensure that deforestation is done on a level that allows for some of the forest to regrow and rejuvenate as quickly as possible.

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

Deforestation is the clearing of land by cutting, burning, and removing trees and other vegetation to make way for human development.

Deforestation can lead to an increase in global warming due to the release of carbon dioxide, loss of biodiversity and species endangerment, destruction of habitats, reduced water cycles, and soil erosion.

Deforestation is a global problem. However, it is a particularly sharp issue in areas with a lot of biodiversity – rainforests being the prime example – as well as in developing countries where resources are scarce.