Exploration of deforestation Essay
This AS Geography Report explores deforestation. Why does deforestation occur? What areas of the world suffer from deforestation? What are the main reasons? Why is deforestation a cause of conflict between many groups of people? These questions and more are answered in this report.
Deforestation is the removal of large areas of forest in order to use the space for other purposes, such as development and crop growing. There has been dramatic deforestation across the world as a whole. Around 35-40% of the original forest has been removed by felling, grazing or burning. The vegetation we replace it with is often smaller and less species rich, this has caused the overall biomass of the Earth to fall.
Which areas of the world have suffered from deforestation?
Before the beginning of the twentieth century the greatest impact of deforestation was in temperate climates, such as the Mediterranean and Asia. Deforestation rates are much higher today, and the location of deforestation has change too. Today’s tree fellers are more commonly seen in South America and Indonesia.
Map (South America > Brazil, Peru) Map (Indonesia > Borneo, Sumatra)
Other areas do suffer from deforestation, just not on the scale that South America and Indonesia do. The Mediterranean for example still suffers deforestation; its coniferous trees are widely used as a resource for industry.
What are the main reasons for deforestation?
There are several reasons why mankind chooses to deforest areas of land, the main reason usually being to develop the land (eg – building, agricultural). There are other reasons however, these are bulleted below.
* Extraction of the timber as a resource for industry and exporting.
* Creation of new land for residential, industrial and transport uses such as the Trans-Amazonia Highway in Brazil.
* Extension of agricultural land to feed and house an increasing population (eg – the transmigration programme in Indonesia).
* The mining of minerals (eg – the Carajas project in the Amazon Basin).
* The creation of dams for the generation of HEP “Hydro-Energy Power” (eg – the Itaipu project on the border between Brazil and Paraguay).
* Attempts to reduce third world debt by encouraging inward investment by multi-nationals (eg – the hamburger ranches, coffee and rubber plantations).
Looking more specifically at Indonesia, below is a table showing the causes of deforestation in this area. The table has been divided into two sections, socio-economic and political.
* Unemployment – there is rapid population & high unemployment. The logging industry employs 700,000 people directly.
* Economic Development – in 1994 wood products produced $5.5bn in export earnings. About 70% of the world’s hardwoods are exported from Indonesia. The money is valuable to help develop the country economically and to pay off debts.
* The logging itself removes trees, but heavy machinery damages others that are not commercially useful.
* The local people farm using slash and burn techniques. The growing population has seen an expansion of the plots of land being cleared for farming.
* Road building sponsored by the government to support the logging companies has destroyed large areas of rainforest.
* The government’s transmigration policy has destroyed about 900,000ha of rainforest. The scheme clears the forest to make way for settlements and farmland in order to house people prepared to migrate away from the overcrowded cities.
* The government is eager to pay off international debts and the logging industry brings in high revenue.
* Until 1998, the military government provided concessions to timber companies which are often run by powerful people who may also have political influence.
* The government rarely enforces selective logging regulations.
* No replanting policies have been in place to replace deforested areas.
* There is limited control or no desire to stop illegal logging.
Less Economically Developed Country (LEDC) Deforestation Case Study
Chosen Country = The Amazon, Brazil
What is the extent of deforestation in Brazil?
The deforestation of The Amazon Rainforest increased in the year 2000 by 15% on the previous year. Around 19,836sq km (7,935sq miles) of rain forest were cut down between August 1999 and August 2000, compared with 17,259sq km over the same time during 1998/1999.
The main factor of the increases in deforestation is believed to be Brazil’s better than expected recovery from a recession it suffered in January 1999. The recession caused devaluation in the local currency, this meant other countries could buy more timber at a cheaper price and so the demand for the wood increased, therefore increasing the rate of deforestation to accommodate for the extra demand.
(diagram to show rate of deforestation in the amazon rainforest)
The map on the previous page shows the rate of deforestation across Brazil’s Amazon Rainforest. Blue areas on the map show the greatest deforestation, light green areas show areas of moderate deforestation, and dark green shows areas where little deforestation has occurred.
To really realise the extent of deforestation in the rainforests, the following facts and figures may help to comprehend how serious the situation is/will become.
FACTS AND FIGURES OF DEFORESTATION
The world’s rainforests will have vanished in their
entirety within 100years of the present day.
In 1800 there were 2.9bn hectares of tropical
rainforests, today there are 1.5bn hectares remaining.
Between 1960 and 1980, 445million hectares of
rainforest were cleared.
We lose 50 species every day (or 2 p/hour) due to deforestation.
Over 50% of Earth’s species live in the tropical rainforests.
Outline the social, economic and political causes for deforestation
Deforestation has more impacts to people than simply cutting down trees. The affects on social, economical and political aspects can be as severe as the environmental issues.
* Growing local population
* Increase in road building
* Damage of forestry areas
* Economic Development
* Government eager to pay debts
* No replanting policies in place
* Limited control/No desire to stop illegal logging
(see previous page for a more detailed table of the socio-economic and political causes)
Asses the physical impact of deforestation on the environment
Deforestation has impacts on a variety of every day things that many people in the MEDCs would take for granted. Some people are very much apposed to deforestation because of the negative impacts on the environment; others see the advantages of deforestation. These advantages are:-
* Increase in employment and household income
* More land available for development and settlement (eg – farming, building)
* Reduction in countries debts through increase in export earnings
* Source of food, timber and drugs for the MEDW (More Economically Developed World)
* Scenic resource for tourism
The impacts do not stop there however. Deforestation affects the local (and sometimes global) water cycle, soils, climate, plants and animals and socio-economic and cultural aspects of life. The table on the following page explains each of these in more detail.
Impact On The Water Cycle
– Bare soil increases overland flow
– Reduced interception of moisture
– Increase in flood risk in rivers and streams
– Increased sediment load in rivers
Impact On Plants & Animals
– Primary forest destroyed, replaced by anything from bare ground to a less species-rich secondary forest
– Threatened extinction of some species
– Reduced net primary productivity
Impact On Soils
– Increased soil erosion through overland flow
– Increased risk of landslides and mudflows
– Increased leaching causing loss of nutrients
– Reduced soil fertility
Socio-Economic & Cultural
– Loss of traditional way of life for indigenous people
– Loss of land
– No immunity against new diseases introduced
– Killing of local people who try to defend their land
– Migrants moved into rainforest often have a low standard of living
Impact On Climate
– Greater reflection of sun’s rays from lighter soil surface (increased albedo)
– Tree burning increases CO2 levels in the air
– Decrease in local rainfall
– Reduced production of oxygen
(for “Impacts On Local People” please see above table, “Socio-Economic & Cultural” section)
Why is deforestation a cause of conflict between many groups of people?
The deforestation of the Indonesian tropical forest has caused conflicts between the people that live there and the logging companies whom deforest the local area. The “Moi” people in Indonesia are in conflict with the logging companies of the area. The government granted a logging license to the Intimpura Timber Company in 1990 for 358,000ha of land. The land owners were not informed and representations by the Moi to the local government, the army and forestry services didn’t have any effect. The government, the army and forestry services do not recognise any form of land rights by the Moi people. The Moi were later named “security disturbers”, which is often an official term used to silence any form of protest. This results in the Moi people having no power over who intrudes on their land, and deforests their living areas.
Is it possible to manage tropical rainforest on a sustainable basis?
At the present time, the management of deforestation of the tropical rainforest is not as good as it perhaps should be. There is more deforesting than there is replanting, this results in a reduction in the tropical rainforest biomass which is essential to maintain nature’s equilibrium. In order to keep this equilibrium, which nature could manage perfectly if it weren’t for human intervention, the replanting of trees is needed. One suggestion to adhere to this would be to force timber companies who deforest the rainforests to replant a given number of hectares of trees for every hundred hectares they deforest. In an ideal world, both these figures would be the same; so for every 100ha of deforestation there would be 100ha of replanting.
This would keep things balanced. Something that would need to be considered if this law were to be imposed is that the replanted rainforest would take hundreds, if not thousands of years to grow back to its original condition. Considering that if deforestation continues at its present rate, without any new laws being introduced, all of the world’s rainforests will be depleted in 100yrs time. This is why replanting needs to begin now.