Deforestation is the state of clearing trees and vegetation cover by man for various reasons. Some of the reasons for deforestation include farming, construction, settlement, mining, or other economic purposes. In such cases, trees and vegetation cover are removed without replacement which results in land degradation and loss of the natural value of land. Since the industrial revolution, approximately half of the earth’s original forests have been cleared, endangering wildlife and the balance of the ecosystem. With each vegetation cover and forest cleared, the planet loses thousands of species and essential plants annually.
Here are few of the primary causes of deforestation:
- Agricultural Expansion
The most prevailing cause of deforestation regards the ever growing demands for food security and consumer crops. In this sense, man has persistently cleared trees and vegetation to convert the regions into agricultural production farms.
Increased demands of consumer crops like soybeans and corn among other grains has seen the rate of deforestation rise at a very fast rate. Farmers clear forests to create space for grazing livestock and planting more crops. Often, small-scale farmers utilize what is known as slash and burn techniques. It involves cutting down trees and burning them to create the space required for farming and livestock production.
In other occasions, migratory farmers clear a forest area and utilize it until the soil is unfit for crop production, and then they proceed to new forest regions. The situation is even worsened because the habit goes on repeatedly. As a result, the lands left behind take hundreds of years to return to their original state.
Logging activities, habitually undertaken to provide the world’s wood, paper products, timber, or fuel is a chief driver of deforestation. Because logging takes many aspects, it further leads to environmental degradation and deforestation as roads are built to enable heavy machinery and trucks to access the most remote areas in the forest. Likewise, selective login is an aspect that silently claims the life of many trees annually.
Selective logging is whereby only the most valuable trees are cut down. The reason is, one fell tree can bring down a considerable number of surrounding trees and also deprives the forest of its protective canopy which is essential for ecosystem balance. Taking away such trees also amplifies soil erosion.
- Setting up Hydroelectric Dams
Construction of hydroelectric dam is among the controversial aspects in the field of energy production. Environmental advocates emphasize that as much as hydroelectric dams are used to generate power by utilizing some of the green principles, it also contributes to deforestation.
Notably, the construction processes create an opportunity for illegal logging and normally requires clearance of the vegetation cover and trees for setting up the site. To erect the facility, large tracks of land also have to be flooded, resulting in the decompositions which further destroy the local ecosystems. The locals may also have to be resettled elsewhere following the dam projects, furthering the cycle of deforestation.
- Mining Activities
Mining also contributes to deforestation. The process of extracting materials and ores like gold, coal, diamond or stones from beneath the earth surface demand the removal of the entire forest cover. In addition to mining, forest cover is cleared to construct roads to enable heavy machinery and trucks to access the mining areas. For instance, mining activities in Nigeria along the Niger Delta has led to extensive loss of forest cover in the region.
- Fires and Burning
There are various human and natural factors resulting in forest fires. Natural factors like wildfires can destroy acres of forests in a matter of hours. Notable wildfires in Utah, Canada, and California have burnt down thousands of acres of forest lands in America. Forest fires can as well cause widespread damage to humans and property in the surrounding areas.
Habitually, it happens because of extended seasons of global warming which makes the trees dry out and die. The dead and dry trees then kindle naturally as a result of lightning or intense heat. Human factors include intended or accidental started fires in the forest that spread very fast, extensively destroying the forest.
- Growing Demand for Palm Oil
In the recent decades, palm oil has become a ‘hotcake’ commodity, thereby increasing its demand and market value significantly. The demand is attributed to its use in food packaging, in beauty products, and its potential as a biofuel. On this regard, palm oil has become a major cause of deforestation. This aspect can be categorized under selective logging. In part, the reason is due to its world market value that has been rising at a phenomenal rate. In Malaysia and Indonesia, for instance, farmers have expansively brought down acres of trees to harvest palm oil.
- Urbanization, Housing, and Transportation
People have widely expanded their boundaries into forest regions due to population increase and urban development pressures. Most of the regions that we live on today were home to thousands of trees and diverse vegetation cover. However, because of urbanization and the ever-mounting demands for housing, people have cut down trees to give room for construction of offices, buildings, apartments, industries, and recreational centers. The construction of transportation networks such as roads, railways, and airports have also necessitated clearance of trees obstructing the pathways. Together, these aspects have substantially caused deforestation.