Introduction to deforestation
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  • 1. DeforestationIntroduction to deforestationDeforestation is defined by as the cutting down and removal of all or most of the trees in aforested area. Deforestation results from removal of trees without sufficient reforestation thisprocess alters the hydrologic cycle, altering the amount of water in the soil and groundwaterand the moisture in the atmosphere. Deforestation can erode soils, contribute todesertification and the pollution of waterways, and decrease biodiversity through thedestruction of habitat. Deforestation is considered to be a main contributor to the greenhouseeffect. Some of the major environmental problems related with deforestation are loweringbiodiversity, desiccation of soil that used to be moist, increase in temperature extremes, lessrecycling of water, global warming, more desertification, and soil erosion. Forests supportconsiderable biodiversity, providing valuable habitat for wildlife. In this website, theenvironmental ethics of deforestation will be evaluated in terms of facts, technical issues,leadership issues, and ethical issues. Deforestation is clearing Earths forests on a massive scale, often resulting in damageto the quality of the land. Forests still cover about 30 percent of the world’s land area, butswaths the size of Panama is lost each and every year (National Geographic). Forests are cutdown for many reasons, but most of them are related to money or to people’s need to providefor their families. The biggest driver of deforestation is agriculture. Farmers cut forests toprovide more room for planting crops or grazing livestock. Often many small farmers willeach clear a few acres to feed their families by cutting down trees and burning them in aprocess known as “slash and burn” agriculture. Logging operations, which provide the world’s wood and paper products, also cutcountless trees each year. Loggers, some of them acting illegally, also build roads to accessmore and more remote forests—which lead to further deforestation. Forests are also cut as aresult of growing urban sprawl. Not all deforestation is intentional. Some is caused by acombination of human and natural factors like wildfires and subsequent overgrazing, whichmay prevent the growth of young trees.RAVINDRA .GAcharay’s Bangalore B-school Page 1
  • 2. DeforestationThe effects of Deforestation Deforestation has many negative effects on the environment. The most dramaticimpact is a loss of habitat for millions of species (National Geographic). Biodiversity islowered because animals that use the trees as a food or shelter source are unable to survivewithout them or may have to make serious adaptations to continue to thrive. Some animalsor plant species are forced to move to another area or even become extinct. Seventy percentof Earth’s land animals and plants live in forests, and many cannot survive the deforestationthat destroys their homes. Deforestation also drives climate change. The temperature extremes increase greatlybecause trees provide shade and shaded areas provide moderate temperatures. Without theshade of the trees, high extremes can go from 98 to 130 degrees Fahrenheit during the dayand low extremes can go from 60 to 30 degrees at night. Forest soils are moist, but withoutprotection from sun-blocking tree cover they quickly dry out. The soil becomes desiccatedbecause the moist soil that was once shaded by treetops becomes overly exposed to the sunonce the trees are gone. This makes the soil highly uninviting for plant life and animals. Trees also help perpetuate the water cycle by returning water vapor back into theatmosphere. The recycling of water can become less frequent and less plentiful because themoisture that evaporates from the ocean, precipitates onto trees in forests, and then transpirethrough leaves back into the atmosphere, without the leaves on trees this process iscompletely altered. Deforestation affects global warming because studies have shown thatdeforestation is responsible for up to ten percent of greenhouse gas emissions, theseemissions cause heat to be trapped in the air, and thus gradually raise the averagetemperatures.RAVINDRA .GAcharay’s Bangalore B-school Page 2
  • 3. DeforestationEthical Issues We as human beings may not understand the severity of the possible consequencesthat deforestation poses. Since deforestation has had no severe effect on us yet, we ignore theproblem. Everywhere you go, you see pieces of paper on the ground, people using multipletissues to wipe their noses, and countless people pulling excessive amounts of brown paperout of the paper towel dispensers in lavatories. These are just few of the sources of paper thatwe use each day, without any thought whatsoever. What we must realize is that the paper products we use daily could have been a part ofa forest which functioned to enrich and hold soil, absorb carbon dioxide, collect and recyclewater, release oxygen, and regulate climate. Some companies do plant trees to produce thekinds of the products needed by industry to spare the older forests but many do not. Bywasting paper products, we are wasting forests. The simple fact is that the more paper we use,the more forests need to be cut down to serve our paper needs. By destroying animal and people’s homes, we are cheating ourselves out of having amore diverse world. Flooding will cause billions upon billions of dollars in repairs; and thoserepairs will most likely be done by the good old U.S., with our tax dollars. If the temperaturerises a bit, this will throw Mother Nature totally off course. It will affect farming, the tourismindustry, travel, sea levels, and much more. If what Myers found is correct and 25% ofmedicines come form the rain forests, then there is a big change that with moderntechnologies that many more could be found. Without knowing what is being destroyed, we might not be missing out on just a fewnew medicines. We might be killing our chances of finding the cures for diseases such asCancer, Aids, Multiple Sclerosis, or a multitude of others. And if by chance we lose all of thenutrients in the soil because of soil erosion, cultivation will be next to impossible. Afterthinking about these consequences, try convincing anyone that the ramifications ofdeforestation will not prove to be quite disastrous. Forests were put on Earth for a reason; they help to maintain a delicate balancebetween all of nature’s elements. By destroying forests through ranching, logging, farming,industrial practice, etc., we are putting this delicate balance in jeopardy. There is no cure forRAVINDRA .GAcharay’s Bangalore B-school Page 3
  • 4. Deforestationdeforestation. Many people talk of reforestation; however that is just not a true solution.Although replanting the forests that have been destroyed seems like a good idea, it actuallydoes no good. Often times the new trees are not the same species as the originals. Also, bythe time the trees grow and mature, the soil has already lost much of the nutrients it once had.Old forests and new forests are not the same and it is the old forests that need to be protected.The ethics of desertification reflects extremely diluted responsibilities. Since the Bronze Agein the Mediterranean Basin, for example, up to the present (such as in Spain), farmers havetried in numerous ways to eke out a hard living in arid lands. Some people would lay blameprimarily on government planning agencies for overirrigation and groundwater depletion,salinization, and other impacts of population density and tourism in arid regions. However, inany particular case it is difficult to lay too much blame on individual agents, although someenvironmental ethicists would blame a culture that is and has been for centuries heedless ofimpacts on arid lands.In regard to science, technology, and rehabilitation/restoration projects such as those of UNEP/CCD,it may be too early to tell whether they will be effective in the long run against what is widelyperceived to be rapidly advancing desertificationRAVINDRA .GAcharay’s Bangalore B-school Page 4
  • 5. DeforestationTechnical Issues Forests have already disappeared in many parts of the world and deforestation ratesworldwide during the 1980s were as high as 15 million hectares per year for tropical forestsalone. In most parts of the world deforestation accelerated during the 1990s. The destructionof large areas of forest can be done at a faster rate now than in previous years. Technologyand machinery like bulldozers, tractors, electric and manual saws, geometric mappingtechnology, dump trucks, freight liners, and other devises are used to quickly take out treesfor the purpose of creating revenue for many industrial companies and organizations.Other causes of Deforestation Conversion of forests and woodlands to agricultural land to feed growing numbers of people. Development of cash crops and cattle ranching, both of which earn money for tropical countries. Commercial logging (which supplies the world market with woods such as meranti, teak, mahogany and ebony) destroys trees as well as opening up forests for agriculture. Felling of trees for firewood and building material; the heavy lopping of foliage for fodder; and heavy browsing of saplings by domestic animals like goats. The largest cause as of 2006 is slash-and-burn activity in tropical forests.[citationneeded] Slash-and-burn is a method sometimes used by shifting cultivators to create shortterm yields from marginal soils. When practiced repeatedly, or without intervening fallowperiods, the nutrient poor soils may be exhausted or eroded to an unproductive state. Slash-and-burn techniques are used by native populations of over 200 million people worldwide.While short-sighted, market-driven forestry practices are often one of the leading cause offorest degradation, the principal human-related causes of deforestation are agriculture andRAVINDRA .GAcharay’s Bangalore B-school Page 5
  • 6. Deforestationlivestock grazing, urban sprawl, and mining and petroleum extraction. Growing worldwidedemand for wood to be used for fire wood or in construction, paper and furniture - as well asclearing land for commercial and industrial development (including road construction) havecombined with growing local populations and their demands for agricultural expansion andwood fuel to endanger ever larger forest areas. If deforestation continues at the rate that it is going now and continues to increase theway it has been, it could mean horrendous things for the future of our planet. Some of the bigchanges would be the formation of mostly desert- like regions, unpredictable and highlyvaried temperatures, great amounts of green house gases, very low biodiversity, extremelynutrient deficient land, and noticeable less precipitation. These changes could completelyalter life as we know it, and not in a positive way. This should be enough cause for us towant to revise our actions in terms of deforestation.RAVINDRA .GAcharay’s Bangalore B-school Page 6
  • 7. DeforestationEcological DiscussionIt is difficult to imagine any direct negative ecological impacts from stopping all tropicaldeforestation. Countless studies have documented the fact that any deforestation impactsecological systems.3 And even if the stop led to more deforestation in temperate areas,northern-latitude tree removal is less likely to lead to land clearing for agriculture (thoughthis could change). The ecological impacts of plantation forests, on the other hand, dependlargely on how they are executed.4 Replacing the areas deforested since 1990 would havepredominantly positive ecological impacts assuming this was done with some care.The following matrix summarizes the expected ecological impacts from this wedge. SHORT-TERM LIFETIME INTERGENERATIONALLOCAL 0 + +REGIONAL 0 + +GLOBAL + + +Social DiscussionHuman health: People depend on forests for food, medicine, fuel, goods, and clean water. Inthe tropics, many people rely on forests for meat and vegetable foods. 5 Smoke fromdeforestation fires can travel long distances; Indonesian fires in 1997 were estimated to cause16,400 infant and fetal deaths. 6 Forests contribute to cleaner ground and surface waters byfiltering impurities.Equity: Poor communities that live near forests bear the greatest impacts from deforestation,with urban dwellers being less reliant upon them 5,7These poor communities do not see a significant financial return for deforestation.Institutional barriers: Institutional barriers can be fairly significant. In countries with thehighest deforestation, such as Indonesia and Brazil, deforestation occurs in remote regionsoften difficult to enter for enforcement purposes. Also, political will can be bent with bribes 8and coercion. Brazil is considering providing economic subsidies to low income illegalloggers in the Amazon, and last May, the government passed the “Sustainable Amazon Plan”.RAVINDRA .GAcharay’s Bangalore B-school Page 7
  • 8. Deforestation9,10 Although the UN recently adopted an international plan to protect the world’s forests, as 11is often the case, the agreements not legally binding and thus not easily enforced. In termsof cultural institutions, many local and indigenous populations are in fact dependent uponforests and have a stake in preventing deforestation. Increasingly, Incorporating localstakeholders in forest management is undertaken to use this stake as leverage in sustainingthe forest. 12Political barriers: These barriers can be some of the highest in Brazil, where proving landownership is quite difficult and leads to many land disputes where logging companies often 13win out over poor locals. Countries are reluctant to have their natural resources regulatedby international bodies (see above), leaving enforcement to national, state, and localgovernments that often lack resources and political will for enforcement.Informational barriers: In the literature, informational barriers are rarely cited as majorconcerns, while institutional, political, and economic barriers are frequently blamed. 14 Whilepeople involved in deforestation might not understand the implications for global warming,there is certainly some understanding of disapproval, whether activities or legal or illegal.Attempts at educating consumers via LEED certification (the U.S. Green Building Council)and other avenues seem to be increasing, though arguably still have far to go. For its part, theForest Stewardship Council has been criticized heavily for its international timbercertificationmeasures.Technological DiscussionAs mentioned above, the causes of tropical deforestation can roughly be divided into threecategories - agricultural expansion, timber extraction, and infrastructure expansion.Resultingly, technological challenges to implementing this wedge range from finding ways toproduce meat and biofuels without destroying rainforests to developing systems for trackingtimber from its source to ensure that it is legally and sustainably harvested.Due to the diffuse nature of this problem, one of the main challenges is simply trackingwhere tropical deforestation occurs. In 2005 a new method was developed to monitordeforestation in the Amazon15 focusing on selective logging.The study found that up to 123% more forest had been damaged than previous reports.However, these methods need to be improved upon and applied to other areas. In addition,while monitoring deforestation can help inform policies, enforcement of existing laws and theRAVINDRA .GAcharay’s Bangalore B-school Page 8
  • 9. Deforestationremoval of economic incentives for deforestation are also necessary.With regards to forest plantations, little is known about the actual sequestration of carbon inplantations on previously agricultural lands, so it will be important to understand how thesechanges impact the carbon cycle before large scale changes are made. In addition, again, assuming the plantations, for the near term, take place on previouslyforested areas that have since been converted to agriculture, alternative sources for theseagricultural products (beef and biofuels, mostly) will need to be developed.Financial DiscussionA 2008 report by Mongabay claims that GHG mitigation through increased use of biofuelswould cost 200 times more per unit of avoided GHG emission than would equal GHGemission reductions achieved through avoided deforestation.16 It is uncertain, though,whether such comparisons are valid because the GHGs whose re-emissions are avoided thatare avoided by using biofuels instead of petrol fuels have been sequestered from theatmosphere for a longer time period than have the GHGs emitted as a consequence ofdeforestation. Thus, one might conjecture that it would be easier to re-sequester emissionsfrom deforestation (e.g. regrow the trees) than it is to re-sequester petrol emissions (reformpetroleum deposits). The converse of this argument, however, is that the GHGs emitted by bythe two sources are chemically identical and thus have the exact same affect on earthsradiative balance, thus they should be valued the same.An additional problem with the financial aspect of this wedge is that the policies andprograms required to affect preservation of forest carbon stocks are not well developed.Further, it is unclear whether policies that succeed in this goal in one region will have thesame impact and financial efficiency in other areas of the globe.17RAVINDRA .GAcharay’s Bangalore B-school Page 9
  • 10. DeforestationEffects of DeforestationDecrease in Forest Area & BiodiversityMost concern, overall, is being given to Tropical Forests, and more specifically to Tropical Moistforest areas. The reason is that Tropical Moist areas provide the best biodiversity and biomasscompared to any other type of forest. More species of animals and plants are found in this rich andgreen ecosystem. Biodiversity is vital because the abundance of foods, fibers, medicines, andindustrial resources depend largely on the size and quality of Tropical Moist forest areas.The importance of Biomass is addressed below in the section on carbon dioxide. The first figureshows the overall extent of change in tropical forest area. This includes at least six subcategories oftropical forest ecosystems. The intent of this page is to emphasize the necessity of preservingtropical forest area due to the vital resources it provides.The Carbon Dioxide ConnectionRainforests store a considerable amount of carbon. Clearing and burning them releases thiscarbon as carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas responsible for the threat of globalwarming. Increasing rainforest cover, rather than decreasing it as currently is occurring, couldhelp reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the air. The major source of the increase incarbon dioxide in the atmosphere is not, however, the clearing of the rainforests. Rather, it isthe burning of fossil fuels like oil, coal, and natural gas.The key term used in understanding the overall health of global ecosystems is "biomass".This term, relating to deforestation, is used to express the measurement of above-grounddensity of forest by estimating volume per unit given. In other words, the thickness of forestin a given area is being measured. A forest areas biomass is critical because the trees andplants in a forest take in much of the worlds carbon dioxide output. Therefore, the lessbiomass a given forest area has, the less carbon dioxide it soaks up. The grim necessity canbe understood by interpreting the data in the table belowRAVINDRA .GAcharay’s Bangalore B-school Page 10
  • 11. DeforestationConclusion Without trees to fill these roles, many former forest lands can quickly become barrendeserts. Removing trees deprives the forest of portions of its canopy, which blocks the sun’srays during the day and holds in heat at night. This disruption leads to more extremetemperatures swings that can be harmful to plants and animals. Trees also play a critical rolein absorbing the greenhouse gases that fuel global warming. Fewer forests mean largeramounts of greenhouse gases entering the atmosphere—and increased speed and severity ofglobal warming. The quickest solution to deforestation would be to simply stop cutting downtrees. Though deforestation rates have slowed a bit in recent years, financial realities makethis unlikely to occur.RAVINDRA .GAcharay’s Bangalore B-school Page 11