Environmental Impacts of Deforestation
Deforestation is the clearing of virgin forests, or deliberate removal or destruction of trees and other shrubberies for commercial, housing, firewood, or agricultural use without reforesting (replanting) and without giving time for the forest to restore itself (Richards, 2002). Trees are utilized for shelter, burned for warmth, transformed into paper products, used as energy sources, and a myriad of other things. However, when trees and vegetation are cut down, it distorts the balance of the entire ecosystem – the carbon cycle, the hydro cycle, and a decrease in species variety. As affirmed by the EPA, a predominant cause of man-made global warming is deforestation, particularly, the clearing of tropical forests, second to the burning of fossil fuels. These disrupt the carbon cycle and subsequently, the hydro cycle. Deforestation reduces species diversity because it deprives species of their native habitat, forcing them to resettle or adapt, but the dire outcome is extinction.
The Carbon Cycle involves the transaction of Carbon Dioxide and Oxygen between animals and plants (Costa, 2009). Humans excrete Carbon Dioxide through respiration whereas plants produce oxygen during photosynthesis. Conversely, humans require oxygen for survival whereas plants need Carbon Dioxide for photosynthesis. This cycle is perfect in that; it maintains an equal concentration of Carbon Dioxide and Oxygen in the atmosphere. When deforestation occurs, the number of trees decreases; consequently, the rate of Carbon Dioxide absorption steadily decreases because photosynthesis occurrence also decreases (Costa, 2009). This phenomenon then causes an increase in the concentration of Carbon Dioxide in the atmosphere. In sum, forests have high rates of productivity and an immense capacity to imbibe Carbon Dioxide from the atmosphere. If these are replaced with less productive ecosystems, then removal of carbon in the atmosphere through photosynthesis will be decreased, thus disrupting the Carbon Cycle.
Water Cycle involves the continual movement of water above, below, and on the earth surface (Bradford, 2015). Maintaining a constant balance in the water cycle is critical for the wellness of the earth and its populace. The distraction of the Water Cycle results in global changes like climate change that interfere with the state of living things. Trees store immense amounts of water, particularly in rainforests which are deforested the most. When trees are chopped, the water stored in them is lost. Plants and trees contribute considerably to the water cycle because they extract groundwater from the ground and return it into the atmosphere (Foley, 2005). Therefore, when trees are chopped, water ceases from being released into the atmosphere, and the water cycle balance is lost.
Deforestation contributes greatly to the global decrease of species diversity. As asserted by the National Geographic Society, seventy percent of Earth’s animals and plants have lived, or live in forests where indigenous fauna and flora are being deprived of their natural environment. Species stripped of their natural habitats might, conceivably, resettle or adapt but the harrowing outcome is extinction. Deforestation diminishes biodiversity by segregating conterminous areas of rainforest from each other, destroying natural habitat, and tampering with plant reproduction (Lennox, 2016). Fewer species in an area means a less biologically diverse environment.
From the above three topics, I feel like as a society, with such technological advancements, are incapable of finding better alternatives than solely depending on deforestation. The fastest solution is stopping the cutting down of trees, but financial realties make this almost impossible. A more likely solution is ensuring that trees remain intact after deforestation. Individuals should plant more trees in place of the ones cut down; this restores forests and maintains the balance of the water cycle. Another solution is eradicating the need for lumber, paper, charcoal, and export (the primary reasons for deforestation). Hemp products are more reliable and sustainable than most tree products like paper. Using hemp plants to cover our industrial needs can drastically lessen the need for deforestation and therefore return the earth and water cycle to a healthier state.