Devastating Effects of Deforestation
The act of deforestation has impacted on the world in terms of depreciating the natural environment and wildlife. It has also impacted on humans on the account of changes in environmental support processes such as weather conditions. For more than a century, the number of trees on the surface of the earth has plummeted, resulting in devastating consequences. Trees not only supply oxygen to humans and wildlife but they also provide various other useful products that we use in our daily life. They maintain the temperature of the atmosphere by taking in carbon dioxide and supplying it with oxygen. But, we humans for our on selfish reasons, have been cutting down trees at an unprecedented rate.
With respect to this, some of the consequential outcomes of deforestation include:
- Soil Erosion
As much as soil erosion is a natural process, it is accelerated by deforestation. The roots of the trees anchor the soil and acts as natural blockades to stormwater runoff. When the trees are cut down, it means the soil is barely left to be washed or blown away leading to stunted growth of vegetation and plants. The absence of forest or vegetation cover makes the topsoil wear away more quickly.
Its approximated that since 1960, a third of the world’s cultivatable land has been lost because of deforestation. Essentially, it is because after cutting down trees, the lands are used to plant crops such as coffee, soybeans, and rice among other cash crops. The roots of these crops lack the capability of holding the soil together, further encouraging soil erosion, flooding, and landslides.
- Soil Destruction and Infertility
Clearing trees make the soil bare, exposing it to the sun’s heat. On this account, soil moisture is dried up and the bacteria that aids in the decomposition of organic matter are killed. Sun’s heat denatures the nutrients responsible for soil fertility. Eventually, the soil loses its fertility potential and becomes unsuitable for supporting the growth of plant or vegetation.
- Reduction in the Quality of Life
Soil erosion as an eventuality of deforestation can also lead to silt depositions into lakes, rivers, streams, and oceans. This can diminish the local water quality and predisposes the populations in the area to poor health. Particularly, the contents of the soil can contain chemicals or other toxic pollutants which are deposited in the nearby waters by surface rainwater runoff.
- Loss of Biodiversity and Species Extinction
About 80% of the world’s plants and animals live and depend on forests and other vegetation cover for survival. This includes shelter, food, adaptation, and evolution. Therefore, destroying the forest directly translates to damaging their habitats and natural support systems. Clearing of trees pushes away wild animals further into the wild exposing them to predators and destroys some of their adaptable habitats that eventually lead to extinction. Many others remain endangered.
About 50 to 100 species are lost on a daily basis as a result of the destruction of their habitats. Many traditional and medicinal plants among other values trees have also vanished from the face of the earth resulting in negative consequences for the local communities relying on them for medicine and hunting.
- Interference With the Water Cycle
One of the trees primary roles is absorbing water from the soil and releasing it in the form of vapor into the environment. As such, it means trees are vital towards maintaining the water cycle. When forests are destroyed, it results in fewer trees and the water cycle is disrupted. What ensues is reduced amount of rain which equally leads to the disruption of the water table.
Lowered water table, in turn, keeps the soil dry making it unfavorable to support crops. Water bodies and the atmosphere begin to dry out thereby compromising watershed potential. Lakes, rivers, streams and the ocean also dry up in the long-run.
Deforestation can as well cause flooding. Trees and vegetations within the coastal areas lower the impact of winds and waves linked to a storm surge. Without trees, coastal and beach areas are susceptible to destructive floods. According to the United Nations, the catastrophic effect of the 2008 cyclone in Myanmar was on the account of the nonstop clearance of the coastal mangrove forests. Similarly, cutting down of trees on the riverside and within the lake regions has routinely resulted in extensive flooding.
- Effects on the Indigenous People
Deforestation affects indigenous people culturally and physically. The endless human expedition to conquer the forests by cutting down trees for various economic purposes has evicted indigenous people from their habitats. Deforestation interferes with their adaptative nature and erodes their cultures. Governments have at times expelled people from their indigenous lands for various economic reasons. Reports also indicate that the culture and life of some indigenous communities who have never come into contact with the rest of the humans are threatened because of nonstop deforestation.
- Global Warming and Climate Change
Scientists find a profound correlation between deforestation and global warming. Global warming is caused by greenhouse gases which absorb the thermal infrared radiation. One of the common greenhouse gases is carbon dioxide (CO2). Trees absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to produce food and in return gives off oxygen. Therefore destroying the forests means more carbon dioxide present in the atmosphere.
Besides, apart from the mounting CO2 levels in the atmosphere, destroyed vegetation also give off stored carbon as they decompose. In 2010, it was established by the Global Forest Resources Assessment that deforestation emits about a billion tons of carbon into the atmosphere on an annual basis. As a result, amplified thermal heat in the atmosphere alters the environmental climate, an aspect termed as climate change.