In general, deforestation is inferred to be a decrease in the forest cover due to several causes such as agriculture (slash and burn cultivation), construction purposes, parasites caused diseases, forest fire, climate change, and urbanization. 

Other causes entail livestock ranching, land desertification, overpopulation, and logging. Logging is inferred as the fundamental cause of deforestation today, which degraded forests of Latin America and subtropical Asia roughly by 70%.

The rate of industrialization and urbanization led to an acceleration of the deforestation rate considering the present context. 

It has been visualized that the forest trees have been reduced in larger quantities with the globe facing modernization in recent years.

Rate of deforestation throughout the globe

Global Deforestation Stats | Infographics Credit: Toner Buzz

Instead of the natural causes, the rate of deforestation is alarming due to the anthropogenic-induced activities that led the hectares of forest to shrink and lose all the forest resources provided by the trees so far. 

The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) under the United Nations revealed that the annual rate of deforestation across the globe is approximately 1.6 million sq. km per decade. 

FAO also depicted that around 80% of the deforestation has been caused by the agriculture extension besides constructing roads and dams with 33 % in developing countries. 

Apart from this, mining activities are also not an exception. 5 % of the deforestation accounted for the population shifting from rural to urban regions. Moreover, the FAO stresses that 7.3 million hectares of forest are lost each year.

It’s a pitiful insight that roughly 4 billion trees comprising 35 % of the forest are felled down for the paper by the paper industries worldwide. Indonesia single-handedly destroys around 40 % of the forest for logging purposes. 

Deforestation effects in multiple sectors

1. Biodiversity

Biodiversity is the crucial part of an ecosystem whose absence cannot run the nutrient cycling and the biogeochemical cycle, affecting the organisms’ food chain and the food web. 

Forests are the critical biodiversity hubs. The forest accounts for numerous rare and endangered flora and fauna, including mammals, insects, reptiles, amphibians.

The research records roughly 80 % of the forest coverage of land flora and fauna. It truly represents the importance of trees in an ecosystem and our lives.

But due to the significant deforestation, the trees in the forest are converted to graveyards each year. 

The trees’ shade will fade away and affect those species that cannot survive in the direct sunlight and require a cold temperature. The tree’s shade has been vital to organisms who devote their life to the forest.

Once the organisms become the victim of deforestation, their habitat is fragmented; it can undoubtedly create modification on the genetic morphology of an organism such as rate of reproduction, rearing and caring to their offspring, alteration of regular voice, and many more. 

It decreases the number of rare and endangered species of wild flora and fauna, thereby hampering the species’ dominance, richness, and abundance, causing wildlife extinction and the loss of their entire habitat.

2. Future food security

The forest acts as our mother to the wildlife who feed the children when they get hungry. The trees provide several fruits, flowers, edible climbers attached to their edible leaves, and so on. 

If the trees are heavily felled down, it loses the food for the local people. It can, later on, create food insecurity for all the people and the wildlife and result in feminism in the coming days.

It is very familiar that in the countries such as Congo and Haiti, the nations are going through prolonged hunger resulting in death by starvation and the victims of several diseases so far. 

Everyone does believe that deforestation causes soil erosion. Once the soil is swept away by the natural disasters induced by deforestation, it does degrade the agricultural land resulting in low agricultural yield in the long term.

The numerous research findings insisted that approximately 52 % of the land used for food production has been affected by soil erosion.

It results in a food crisis and creates more hunger situations in the days to come. It involves the wild fauna and massively affects the indigenous, marginalized, and the tribal human population who rely on the forest to sustain their daily livelihoods.

Thus, the nations will shift to the alternative option. Ironically, to fulfill the increased global demand for soybean-based biofuels, large hectares of forest have been reduced each year to extract palm oil.

It has been insisted that the plantation of the palm oil is not only destroying the forest but instead has hampered and displaced the species, including Sumatran rhinoceros, Asian elephants, orangutans, and the tigers.

Being the second-biggest soybean supplier throughout the globe, Brazil has almost cleared all the forest cover intending to supply and export palm oil to other countries. 

It’s a very eco-friendly concept to shift to alternative energy sources, but clearing the forest trees to move towards the alternative option does not sound good.

3. Water resources

Deforestation and water cycle | Infographics Credit: Lisbdnet

As we all know that water resources, as gifted by nature, are a vital component of our life. The tree acts as the land cover that maintains the water quality in the river. After deforestation, the water resources will dry up since fewer trees are left.

The forest trees significantly prevent the rising water table, thereby balancing the recharge (downward movement of water to the water taken through the soil) and the discharge (water loss from the water table) mechanism of the natural means.

Once there is an alteration in the recharge and the discharge water system, without a doubt, it can have severe impacts on the water and dry up the water resources. 

It can negatively influence the organism’s livelihood, which relies on water resources for survival.

4. Soil

before_and_after_deforestation
Nutrient cycle: before and after deforestation | Flow Chat Credit: Nyasha Sakadzo

The tree is the one that collects and filters the precipitation in the form of rainfall and releases it into the rivers and the stream gradually. 

The massive deforestation makes the soil loser since there are no trees to hold the topsoil tightly. It results in the catastrophic devastation of soil erosion. 

Once the soil erosion occurs, it washes away all the nutrients that remain in the soil, thereby hampering agricultural production.

Moreover, it mixes the chemical fertilizers and pesticides used for agricultural production near the forest, resulting in groundwater pollution. 

It should note that the forested soil entails organic matter and is very resistant to bad weather and erosion. 

At the ground level, there is the fixation of the trees by the roots, and the sun-block tree cover has a broad contribution in drying out the soil cover gradually.

Upon deforestation, the soil gets degraded, becomes more fragile, and is prone to numerous natural disasters, including floods and landslides. 

It indicates the importance of trees in controlling soil erosion inside and outside the forest areas.

5. Climate

Forest and Climate Change | Infographics Credit: WWF

Climate is the fundamental component to regulate our ecosystem and landscape as a whole. Today the globe is going through vast greenhouse gas emissions promoting global warming. 

In such a context, the trees are foremost since it assists considerably in the absorption and storing of the CO2, the mechanism as familiar by the term ‘carbon sequestration.

Someone might feel surprised by the insight that the tropical rainforest absorbs 210 gigatons of carbon, according to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), an organization working in wildlife and nature conservation.

But considering the present situation of innumerable loss of species, research concerning the Amazon rainforest forecasted that upon deforestation in large quantities, close to 90% of the wild flora and fauna will get extinct until the next 40 years.

The research estimates that deforestation singly accounted for 10-15 % of all the anthropogenic induced CO2 emissions.

Once the trees fall, it releases back the CO2 in the atmosphere, which it holds, and once there are fewer trees left in the forest, it possesses less capability to sequester the carbon and thus increase the rate of CO2 in the atmosphere.

It can undoubtedly increase greenhouse gas emissions and create an alteration in the original climate, thereby resulting in the environment imbalance-induced effects in multiple sectors such as agriculture, forestry, water resources, and many more.

6. People’s livelihood

Multiple findings support that close to 1.6 billion across the globe do rely on the forest resources harboring more than 25 % of the world population, among the approximately 1.2 billion who are dependent on the forest trees aimed to generate food items, gathering the raw materials and the financial benefits.

It reflects how the forest has contributed to our daily livelihood and sustains our life. Many poorer countries rely on forests even to fulfill their basic requirements. 

In the name of commencing and establishing the palm oil and the coffee companies’ large hectares of forests are in the peak stage through deforestation. 

The greenery, along with the forest resources, has been degraded day by day due to modernization.

It’s ironic and pitiful to express that the tree plantation owners are compelled to share their good amount with the local cartels in countries such as Mexico. 

The local cartels warn the plantation owners to reach the family in the graveyard and damage all the crops by burning at a glance before it strikes with the owner’s sight.

Upon felling the trees by the more prominent industrial companies haphazardly, the forest resources the local people are using are highly degraded, thereby influencing the local’s livelihood since food production will be scarce. 

The locals can lose the native aromatic and medicinal herbs, Non-Timber Forest Products (NTFPs), flora, and fauna, which sum up the forest’s natural beauty.

Moreover, it causes natural disasters such as landslides and floods, which the local people should face. 

Such activities can lead to difficulty for the locals in sustaining their livelihood for a prolonged-time period.

Conclusion

The ongoing forest deforestation has left the globe terrified. With the millions of hectares of forest trees being felled down, it has created severe effects not only on nature; instead on the local’s livelihood, crucially by anthropogenic-induced activities.

It seems of utmost necessity to seek and take urgent attention concerning the deforestation issues by all the nations. We could carry it out by effectively coordinating and implementing the fundamental commitments. 

Kalpana Ghimire holds a post-graduate degree in Environmental Science from Nepal. She possesses numerous research experiences working in water pollution, community forestry, environment conservation status, and wildlife ecology. She was an internee in the Department of Environment (EIA monitoring and auditing section) under the Government of Nepal. Kalpana Ghimire is an avid traveler, an enthusiastic wildlife researcher, and has a huge passion for working in the environment sector. She loves far traveling to the natural areas, conducting field wildlife research and reading the novels.