Forests cover about 31% of the Earth’s surface, 75% of which has been degraded by human activities like deforestation. Deforestation is the deliberate clearing of forest land for human uses like regenerative agriculture, cattle breeding, and extracting raw materials like palm oil or timber wood. The incessant felling of trees impact weather patterns, destroys habitats, and impacts rural communities negatively which leads to food insecurity and irreversible damage to the ecosystem.
Reports show that about “15.3 billion trees are chopped every year and over the past 12,000 years, nearly 50% of the world’s trees have been purposefully cleared by yourself”.
In this blog, we have discussed the impact of deforestation and the solution to this problem.
Impact of Deforestation
• On Climate: Deforestation impacts and intensifies climate change dramatically. Through photosynthesis, trees can absorb carbon dioxide and dense forests act as extremely valuable carbon sinks, for example, the Amazon rainforest. However, deforestation leads to huge carbon dioxide emissions which lead to a rise in global temperatures. At the same time, deforestation enhances the risk of wildfires due to humans burning vegetation, which in turn, destroys forests and intensifies deforestation even more.
• On Soil Pollution and the Water Cycle: Other than acting as carbon sinks, forests are an essential component of the water cycle, preventing desertification. Feeling trees disrupts the water cycle by minimising precipitation and affects river flow and water volume. Statistically, Amazon is at its tipping point with 17% of the forest lost already. Other than contributing to the water flow, trees allow land to retain water and sustain forest life by supplying the soil with rich nutrients. The land cover gets deprived due to deforestation, leaving the soil exposed to wind and rain.
• On Humans: Deforestation impacts the human population directly. The loss of trees and forests destroys homelands in the process. The lives of indigenous communities depend on forests and deforestation impacts their sustenance. Destroying their houses and compromising their resources compel them to migrate elsewhere and look for other means to sustain themselves. Did you know that “the Amazon rainforest is home to over one million indigenous people, mostly of Indian descent, divided into more than 400 indigenous tribes”? These tribes depend hugely on the rules of nature, but, with deforestation, their lives are becoming more vulnerable, forcing them to migrate and change their lifestyle entirely.
• On Animals and Plants: Just like humans, animals are among the biggest victims of deforestation. 80% of terrestrial animals, plants, and insect species live in forests. Deforestation is leading to a rapid decline in biodiversity, the main effect being seen in plants and animals losing their habitat. There are several factors that contribute to driving species to extinction. Land erosion depletes the soil of its nutrients, eliminating the nourishment for plants and animals. Besides, animal species rely immensely on certain plants and their fruits for food sources. The loss of these resources makes animals weaker and vulnerable to diseases and therefore, yields to starvation. Trees also regulate forest temperature. But with deforestation, the temperature tends to vary drastically from day to night which can be fatal for several animal species.
• Food Security: Deforestation impacts food security through the loss of biodiversity. Not only does deforestation impact food availability for indigenous tribes and animals living in the forest, but it also impacts weather patterns and decreases agricultural productivity. People residing in the proximity of tropical forests suffer immensely due to excessive deforestation in terms of food security, the struggle to grow sufficient food, and preventing crops from damage.
Impact of Deforestation in Australia
In Australia, the ongoing loss and decline of forests, scrublands, grasslands, and wetlands threaten several native species. “About 90% of native vegetation in the eastern temperate and south-western temperate zones has been removed for agriculture, industry, transport, and human inhabitant”. At the same time about half of Australia’s rainforests have been cleared, reducing the proportion of the country’s forest and woodland by more than a third.
In Australia, deforestation impacts the health of rivers and coastal ecosystems by increasing soil erosion and washing off sediments, nutrients, and other pollutants into coastal waters, damaging coral reefs and other marine ecosystems. Since 1990, about half of the Australian terrestrial birds’ population has declined, and even some common birds are now in trouble. It has been reported that the loss of vegetation in parts of eastern Australia has increased summer temperatures by about 2 degrees Celsius. At the same time, temperatures in southwest Western Australia increased by 0.4-0.8 degree Celsius. Other than this, deforestation is leading to salinisation, making land useless for farming and destroying the habitat for several species.
Deforestation as we know has catastrophic effects on our planet, and we need to take impactful actions to remedy that. At an individual level, reducing meat consumption, recycling products, going paperless, choosing natural products, and supporting agricultural companies are a few attempts. At the same time, the government can introduce policies to protect natural forests, and regulate mining and logging operations, and other operations that destroy tree plantations.
Australia has lost about “27% of the rainforest, 19% of open forest, 11% of woodland forest and 28% of mallee forest since 1750”.
To know more about the imminent impact of deforestation in Australia and find out solutions to combat its impact on the overall environment, browse through the KG2 Australia website. We are Australia’s largest independent farmer database that enables farmers and industries to leverage the country’s most comprehensive agribusiness database.