If someone were to suggest you remove a lung, the idea would seem ridiculous. However, on Earth where the forests act as the planet's lungs, converting carbon dioxide to the oxygen, areas of woodland the size of Panama are cut down every year. At the current rate of deforestation, rainforests could completely vanish in 100 years. The many negative impacts from deforestation include economic, ecological, and environmental problems.
Soil Erosion and Mudslides
The trees in a forest do many things to keep soil from eroding. Tree root systems keep soil in place and bind it to the bedrock below. Tree litter, such as fallen leaves and branches, slows water runoff which can carry away top soil and weaken the foundation below. If trees are removed from higher elevations or inclines, the risk of landslides, also called mudslides, is increased. Large sections of land give way and can slide down on to populated areas below causing structural damage, injuries, and even death.
Loss of Biodiversity
Deforestation is a direct factor in the extinction of plant and animal species. "The current extinction rate of plant and animal species is around 1,000 times faster than it was in prehuman times -- and this will increase to 10,000 times faster by 2050," according to Greenpeace East Asia. Seventy per cent of Earth's land animals and plants live in forests. If their habitats are destroyed, animals cannot simply move elsewhere. Often these animals are killed in the deforestation process or cannot survive once their habitats are destroyed. The loss of plant species is also important, as many plants in forests may hold the key chemicals needed to cure diseases.
Droughts and Flash Floods
The trees and plants in a forest are one part of a water cycle that keeps weather patterns and climate in balance. The forest adds to local humidity and rainfall through transpiration, the process by which plants release water through their leaves. If trees are cut down their root systems can no longer absorb water and release it into the air through transpiration. In turn, droughts can result from deforestation. With fewer trees evaporating into the air water runs off into low-lying areas and water systems and causes flash floods
Deforestation intensifies the global warming problem. Once a tree is cut down, it can no longer remove carbon dioxide from the air. Trees are often burnt after being cut down. Trees are 50 per cent carbon, and once burnt release the carbon dioxide they stored into the air. Between 25 and 30 per cent of the greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere each year, 1.6 billion tons, is caused by deforestation.
- Society of American Foresters Dictionary: Deforestation
- National Geographic; Deforestation; Modern Day Plague
- Greenpeace East Asia: Our disappearing forests
- ForestIndustries.EU: The forest and the trees
- Mongabay: Impact of Deforestation - Local and National Effects
- Food and Agricultural Organization of the UN: Deforestation causes global warming