Deforestation Hurts Us in More Ways Than One

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Cutting down the world’s forests has a major impact on the environment.

The world is supposed to be balanced so its natural processes function efficiently and effectively. Nature has created cycles to ensure life can thrive and survive and that animals have the ability to adapt to changes. It is a process that has taken millions of years to create. When you throw humans into the mix, it throws that cycle out of whack.

As the dominant species on the planet, we want the best for ourselves and our families. We’ve grown accustomed to the many amenities that have made our lives easier and look forward to the advances technology will make to improve our lives further. However, many of these advancements come at the cost of the environment.

One of the acts we participate in that has made a huge impact is deforestation. This is the act of cutting down trees for a variety of reasons, including agriculture and the production of paper products. Cutting down trees for the benefit of us humans has made things worse for other species. Below are some causes of deforestation and the impact it has on the world.

Creating Land for Agriculture

As the world population increases, so does the demand for food. To feed those hungry mouths, forests are often removed so farmers can produce crops and ranchers can feed their livestock. On average, it is believed that 80,000 acres of rainforest are lost daily to agriculture.

When it comes to removing trees for agricultural purposes, most farmers use what is called the slash and burn method. This means all of the trees are removed, and if there is any vegetation left, it is burned. The ash is then allowed to settle into the soil to fertilize the new crops.

Using Forests for Paper Products

Another one of the causes of deforestation has to do with using trees for paper products. While it’s difficult to know how many trees are cut down to create paper products or to be used in construction, it is estimated that between 3.5 and 7 billion trees are harvested for production. Illegal tree harvesting in this industry is a major problem, and some businesses have been trying to fight this issue by going paperless.

Effects of Deforestation

The effects of deforestation can be devastating. Cutting down trees isn’t just ridding the world of pretty vegetation — it has detrimental impacts on the environment. Since trees create oxygen and soak up excess carbon dioxide, when they are cut down, there is nothing to rid the atmosphere of carbon dioxide. Therefore, greenhouse gases build up and heat the atmosphere. This, in turn, changes the climate and weather patterns around the globe.

Cutting down trees also impacts animals. Without their natural habitat, many species go extinct because they can’t adapt to other living conditions. Extinctions have taken place on this planet in the past — it’s part of the natural process — but the current rate of animal extinction is 1,000 to 10,000 times what happens naturally. This is thanks to humans and our destruction of the planet.

Droughts also occur when forests are cut down because trees act as a canopy, covering the soil from the sun’s hot rays so it can retain its moisture content. When the trees are no longer protecting the soil, the water is evaporated into the environment, drying out the land.

The process of creating rain involves trees transpiring moisture into the air. From there, clouds are formed and mix with other chemicals in the atmosphere to make rain. One mature tree can release up to 1,000 liters of water into the air in one day. The entire Amazon rainforest can release up to 20 billion tons of water per day. Without trees to transpire moisture into the atmosphere, there is no rain.

Deforestation has also led to a rise in diseases that impact humans. These include diseases spread by mosquitoes, such as dengue and malaria, as well as illnesses that are passed from primates to humans. A growing number of studies has shown this problem is creating a lot of issues.

We humans have had a huge impact on the environment because of our lifestyles. In some cases, we are doing what we can to mitigate those impacts, but more needs to be done. With the continued loss of forests, we can expect more issues to arise. However, by being armed with information and a desire to act, perhaps we can slow those problems down.

Category: Environment

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Article by: Megan Ray Nichols

Megan Ray Nichols is a freelance science writer and science enthusiast. Her favorite subjects include astronomy and the environment. She encourages discussions in these fields. Megan is also a regular contributor to Datafloq, The Energy Collective, and David Renke's World of Space. When she isn't writing, Megan loves watching movies, hiking and stargazing. Love what you're reading on Schooled By Science? Don't forget to subscribe today!