Assignment 3: Literature Review
Concepts and Descriptions
Conceptually, deforestation is the removal of tree stands, which converts the land into other land uses or results into a bareness; for example, clearing of forestland to ranches, farms, or urban use (Durham & Painter, 1998). Similarly, United Nations Development Program (UNDP) considers deforestation as a massive clearing of the Earth’s forest, which often results to degradation and reduction of the quality of land. UNDP has reiterated that the current rate of global deforestation is alarming and calls for immediate and rigorous intervention. It warns that if no proper measure is put in place, the word risks losing its forest endowments in just a hundred years to come. Also, a report by Cardenas (2008), adds that the world is not just losing the forest cover, but a complex mixture of natural resources including the biodiversity, land productivity are subsequently deteriorating.
Global deforestation mainly affects the world’s temperate and tropical rainforest, which form the highest percentage of forest cover. The rate and extent of forest loss have proved beyond any reasonable doubt to be an urgent environmental problem. In this regard, the issue jeopardizes people’s livelihoods, intensifies global warming, and threatens the world’s plant and animal species (Lambin & Geist, 2006). Further, Andersen reports that, millions of the world population has a direct reliance on forest resources through small-scale agriculture, harvesting forest products, hunting, and gathering. Moreover, deforestation poses severe social problems, which sometimes results to violent conflicts as the different parties fight to tap the scarce resources.
Forest transformation and conversion are majorly due to human actions in relation to direct or indirect utilization, which over the years have continued to be profound (Boahene, 1998). Tress are cleared, fragmented, or converted to agricultural lands, infrastructure, and human settlements. Originally, as Lambin and Geist (2006) put it, more than half the land of United States, nearly all of Europe, three-quarters of Canada, and vast lands of the world were under forest. However, the coverage has been removed to a large extent by wood fuel extractions, industrial usage, and farming.
Quantitative and Qualitative Data on Forest and Deforestation
The Earth’s total area covered by the forest is over four billion hectares, which quantitatively gives an average per capita of 0.6 hectares (Vajpeyi, 2001). Though, only five countries in the world are rich in forest cover, which include Canada, Brazil, the Russian Federation, China, and United States of America. Their areas under the forest are more than half of the territories; however, the vastness in forest is because the countries have developed appropriate policies and laws to monitor forest product utilization (Lambin & Geist, 2006). Moreover, almost ten countries in the world lack areas covered by forest while additional 54 countries have less than 10% land covered (Margulis, 2004).
More than one and a half of the world forests are gone. Unfortunately, every year, additional 16 million hectares are lost, which worsen the natural state of the environment. UNDP estimates that just about 22% of the Earth’s old growth remains, especially the boreal forest of Canada and Alaska, boreal forest in Russia, the Guyana Shield, and the Amazon rainforest in the Northwest Basin. However, the anthropological influence in forest cover continues to expand and accelerate in the remaining undisturbed forest, which also result to declining quality of the forest remnants (Margulis, 2004).
Deforestation rate has shown signs of decreasing, nonetheless, still alarmingly high especially in Asia, Africa, and Latin America, which still rely on wood fuel as an energy source. Again, evidences show that, the tropical rainforest of South America and Africa are leading in the rates of deforestation (Lambin & Geist, 2006). According to Pearce (1994), agriculture was the main reason for deforestation in Brazil and Indonesia. Conversely, other uses or natural causes account for the loss, for example, in the 1990s, up to 13 million hectares of forest disappeared in the world due to non-agricultural factors. Also, since 2000, Australia has lost huge tracts of forest as a result of drought and forest fires (Costa & Pires, 2010).
Tropical deforestation is the most detrimental aspect of global change in environmental issues such as climate, hydrology, and global biogeochemical cycles (Boahene, 1998). Rainforest in the Amazon Basin is the largest single Tropical forest of the world, but sadly, the vast coverage in Brazil has the highest rate of forest loss of about 1.5-2.0 × 106 hectares per year (Costa & Pires, 2010).
Explicitly, according to Costa and Pires (2010), South America suffered the greatest net loss between the years of 2000 and 2010, by deforestation rate of 4.0 million hectares of cover lost every year. Africa followed closely with a rate of about 3.4 million hectares lost annually. In the same decade, Oceania had a net loss of 700000 ha every year, mainly because of the severe drought that struck Australia. On the other hand, in Central and North America, area covered by the forest in 2010 was estimated to be the same as in 2000. Fortunately, the forest cover in Europe expanded, though on a slower rate (700000 ha annually) in relation to 1990s (900000 ha annually). However, China experienced a net gain of greater than 2.2 million ha annually in the same period of 2000-2010. However, Southeast Asia and the Southern parts continued to register net losses in forest cover (Costa & Pires, 2010).
Causes of Deforestations
According to Kummer and Turner (1994), agriculture is the direct cause of deforestation, of which subsistence farming accounts for about 45% while commercial agriculture accounts for 32% of the global deforestation. Again, industrial logging for wood processing and as fuel energy is responsible for massive rate of deforestation (Sunderlin & Center for International Forestry Research, 1996). Globalization that leads to worldwide proliferations of ideas, commodities, capital, and labor coupled with the rise in urbanizations, especially in the developing countries has endangered the world forest cover. In Africa and Asia to be specific, the exacerbated rates of deforestation are due to overreliance on wood fuel as a source of household energy. Additionally, other natural causes such as drought, forest fires, pest, and diseases have also contributed to the loss of huge tracts of the Earth’s forest.
Effects of Deforestations
Deforestation destroys wildlife habitats, which leads to decline or extinction of the world’s biodiversity, for instance, about 137 species of animals, plants, and insects are lost in a single day because of rainforest deforestation; cumulatively, adding up to 50000 species per year. Additionally, soil loss through erosions and subsequent land degradations affects world food production (Vajpeyi, 2001).
Deforestation also causes an imbalance in the hydrological cycle due to increased moisture loss from bare soil surfaces. Sadly, deforestation is the main cause of climate change and global warming due to loss of carbon sequesters. Therefore, greenhouse gases, particularly Carbon dioxide accumulate in the atmosphere at high concentrations, making global warming inevitable. It is human beings who suffer the real repercussion as their livelihoods and welfare is tampered with. Furthermore, forest cover is a surrogate to economic value of a country, which when lost leads to economic losses (Costa & Pires, 2010).
In conclusion, forest offers invaluable economic services and direct marketable good and service to the various countries of the world. Deforestation is a worldwide issue that should be address at the country, regional, and global levels. Even though worldwide campaigns have been used to reduce the rates of forest loss, effort still needs to be put in place to avoid future impacts on human livelihoods, welfare, environment, and the global economy. Therefore, appropriate and effective mitigation measures must be put in place to curb unsustainable exploitation of forest resources, both at individual and industrial levels.
Boahene, K. (1998). The Challenge of Deforestation In Tropical Africa: Reflections On Its Principal Causes, Consequences And Solutions. Land Degradation & Development, 9(3), 247-258.
Costa, M. H., & Pires, G. F. (2010). Effects Of Amazon And Central Brazil Deforestation Scenarios On The Duration Of The Dry Season In The Arc Of Deforestation. International Journal of Climatology, 30(13), 1970-1979.
Durham, W. H., & Painter, M. (1998). The Social Causes of Environmental Destruction in Latin America. Ann Arbor: Univ. of Michigan Press.
Kummer, D. M., & Turner, B. L. (1994). The Human Causes of Deforestation in Southeast Asia. BioScience, 44(5), 323.
Lambin, E. F., & Geist, H. (2006). Land-Use and Land-Cover Change: Local Processes and Global Impacts. Berlin: Springer.
Margulis, S. (2004). Causes of Deforestation of the Brazilian Amazon. Washington, D.C: World Bank.
Sunderlin, W. D., Resosudarmo, I. A. P., & Center for International Forestry Research. (1996). Rates and Causes of Deforestation in Indonesia: Towards a Resolution of the Ambiguities. Jakarta, Indonesia: Centre for International Forestry Research.
United Nations Development Programme. (2000). World Resources 2000-2001: People and Ecosystems : the Fraying Web of Life. Amsterdam: Elsevier Science.
Vajpeyi, D. K. (2001). Deforestation, Environment, and Sustainable Development: A Comparative Analysis. Westport, Conn : Praeger.