Deforestation is the cutting down of trees, typically on a large scale. This is carried out all around the world for many different reasons. For example:

  • Clearing land for farming – So we can grow food to raise cattle, have space for the cattle and grow other food crops.
  • Growing crops that we can use to make plant-based fuels, which are called biofuels.
  • Getting wood in a process called logging – We can use the wood for different things, such as building or burning it as fuel.

Deforestation can either be carried out:

  • Sustainably
  • Unsustainably

Sustainable deforestation occurs when trees that are cut down are replaced through replanting. However, more often than not, unsustainable deforestation is taking place. This is because trees are being cut down faster than they can regenerate.

Consequences of Deforestation

Increased wildfires

Forests play an important role in regulating the environment. They provide moisture and shade the ground, which helps to prevent wildfires from occurring.

When forests are removed through deforestation, the moisture and shading provided by the trees are lost. This leads to an increase in the amount of dry, combustible material on the ground. These conditions make it more likely for fires to start and spread. As a result, there will be more frequent and intense wildfires.

Loss of biodiversity

When forests are cleared, the plants and animals that lived in those forests are often unable to survive in the new, altered environment. Many species are adapted to living in specific types of forests. When those forests are destroyed, the species that depend on them may be unable to adapt and may go extinct.

Released carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere

The trees that are cut down can no longer photosynthesise. Plants use carbon dioxide (CO2) for photosynthesis, so the more trees we cut down, the less carbon dioxide will be absorbed. This results in more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, which can contribute to global warming.

Increased flooding

Trees help prevent sediment runoff, and forests are typically able to hold and use more water than farms or grasslands. However, when forests are cleared, it can lead to soil erosion, which is the loss of the top layer of soil.

This means that the soil is no longer able to retain water, leading to more frequent and severe flooding.

Disruption to the water cycle

Trees and forests play a vital role in the water cycle by absorbing water from the soil and releasing it back into the atmosphere through a process called transpiration. This helps to regulate the amount of water in the environment and prevent flooding.

When forests are cleared, the trees that were once present are no longer able to absorb and release water, leading to changes in the local water cycle.

Increased drought

Cutting a large number of trees down disrupts the water cycle, leading to less rainfall. As a result, the level of groundwater decreases, which causes water shortages and droughts.