Deforestation is when forests are cleared, or cut down. This describes the actions of humans in removing forests, rather than natural events such as hurricanes removing them. People have always cut down trees, however in recent years, the amount of forests being lost to deforestation has grown massively. Forests are very important for the health of the planet.
Every minute, a forest area the size of 20 football fields is cut down! The largest amount of deforestation is happening in tropical areas in rainforests. Some areas recover from the damage, but it can take many years. Most areas never recover.
By 2030, we could only have 10% of our forests!
Reasons for Deforestation
The wood from trees is used to make buildings, furniture or paper.
Trees are also removed to make way for farming, where crops are grown or where farm animals can eat. Most of the croplands on the planet were once forests, which would have covered 11 million square kilometers. In tropical areas, large areas of forest are cleared to plant coffee, rubber trees or palm trees.
How are Forests Cut Down?
Slash and Burn
Farmers cut down large trees and then set fire to areas of a forest to clear the land, killing all the animals and plants that live there. The ash from the fire helps to make the land fertile and crops can be grown for a few years before the land becomes useless. The farmers leave the area and move to a new place, repeating this slash and burn process wherever they go.
This is done in grasslands and rainforests in regions including central Africa, northern South America and Southeast Asia. Between 200 and 500 million people practice slash and burn agriculture, nearly 7% of the world’s population.
Some places never recover, but in some cases (after many years), forest plants and animals may return to the land.
Machines or humans cut down hundreds or thousands of trees and use them as lumber. In the Amazon rainforest, there is a lot of illegal logging, where companies or people are not allowed to cut trees down but do anyway.
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Problems Caused by Deforestation
Forests and other green plants produce oxygen and when they are cut down, less oxygen is released into the atmosphere. Trees also trap carbon dioxide, a gas that contributes to global warming. When they are cut down, this carbon dioxide goes back into the atmosphere.
Cutting down trees can also lead to erosion, which is when the soil blows away because the trees aren’t there to hold it together. Bad weather, such as strong winds or rain, can cause the soil to disappear and can slide down slopes and destroy homes and fields.
Lots of animals and plants live in forests. When trees are cut down, they lose their homes or are killed. Some animals can become extinct because of deforestation.