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 – This provides space to grow food for cattle, raise the cattle and produce other food crops.
  • Growing crops that we can use to make plant-based fuels, which are called biofuels.
  • Logging (the process of extracting wood) – The wood is used for various purposes, such as construction and as fuel.

Deforestation can either be carried out:

  • Sustainably
  • Unsustainably

ustainable deforestation means that trees which are cut down are replaced through replanting. Unfortunately, most of the time, deforestation happens unsustainably. This is because trees are being cut down faster than they can regenerate.

Consequences of Deforestation

Increase in 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, the moisture and shade they provide 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.

Release of 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.

Increase in 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 retains less water, leading to more frequent and severe flooding.

Disruption of 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.

Increase in 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.

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