Rainforests as amazing. They are beautiful, full of colorful animals and biodiversity – but the deforestation of rainforests is far from this daydream.
The forest trees are extremely connected and they have a major role in fighting climate change, since they trap carbon into their roots.
In Brazil, which has the largest rainforest on the planet, the Amazon Forest, deforestation in 2022 had been 9,000 km² in September. This was the worst mark in this indicator in 15 years.
Due to the politics of former president Jair Bolsonaro, the action of illegal mining and the dismantling of the institutions that protect these territories, the scenario of the last 4 years was a nightmare for any environmentalist.
So, no, deforestastion is not getting better.
What are the consequences of deforestation?
Deforestation has a number of consequences not only for the natural environment, but also for the lives of human beings.
Forests prevent soil erosion and desertification, recycle carbon dioxide, and help harmonize the climate, especially the rainfall regime.
The main consequences of deforestation are:
- Loss of biodiversity;
- Exposure of soil to erosion
- Loss of environmental services;
- Global warming;
- Contribution to the intensification of the greenhouse effect, since deforestation releases significant amounts of greenhouse gases.
Definition of deforestation
Deforestation is the process of native vegetation removal from an specific area.
There’s a lot of reasons for deforestation, but all of them are conected to human actions, that is, the actions in name of development or productive activities.
The consequences of deforestation are linked to biodiversity loss and, consequently, to the extinction of species.
On top of that, deforestation causes a wide range of negative environmental impacts and is pointed out as one of the major factors responsible for climate change.
Unfortunately, deforestation is a worldwide phenomenon. Currently, the largest volume of deforestation occurrences are in underdeveloped and emerging countries, mainly because the developed ones burned down their green areas already.
What are the most deforested areas in the world?
Some countries lead the planet in deforestation rates. This attack on the environment is caused by economic interests in forest assets.
- Forests of Indo-Burma (Asia-Pacific);
- New Zealand (Oceania);
- Sunda (Indonesia, Malaysia, and Brunei-Asia-Pacific);
- Philippines (Asia-Pacific);
- Atlantic Rainforest (South America);
- Mountains of South-Central China (Asia);
- California Floristic Province (North America);
- Coastal Forests of East Africa (Africa);
- Madagascar and Indian Ocean Islands (Africa);
- Afromontane Forests (East Africa);
Causes of deforestation of rainforests
The main cause of deforestation is linked to anthropic action, that is, the action of humans in the process of removing vegetation.
In this way, deforestation, in most forested areas, is directly caused by the productive activities developed by humans as a whole.
The removal of vegetation is carried out by direct cutting, by machinery, and by other means such as burning. These deforested areas are commonly used for the exploitation of natural resources and for soil occupation.
The process of deforestation was initiated by the need for raw materials for the production of different elements for society’s use.
In this way, the exploitation of wood, for example, for the manufacture of paper and furniture, is an important cause of the large volume of deforestation verified in various parts of the world.
In this context, the production of charcoal and means of transportation that use wood in their manufacture, such as boats, also stand out. Wood is also used for building houses and making objects.
The advance of urbanization and industrialization is also considered an important driver of deforestation.
The cities grew largely in areas that were once forested, and the removal of vegetation was necessary for the construction of houses, buildings, and streets.
Industries, on the other hand, have boosted the use of elements from nature as raw material.
Soon, in addition to wood, fruits, sap, and other forest elements began to be widely used in industry, a scenario that caused a great devastation of forest areas.
Deforestation is also directed to land use. Agricultural and cattle-raising practices are an example of this type of use, where the vegetation is removed, either by machines or by burning, to make room for the implementation of large monoculture plantations and also for cattle-raising.
Today, this is a recurrent scenario in Brazil, for example, marked by the expansion of the agricultural frontier in biomes such as the Amazon and the Cerrado.
In recent years, the large volume of deforestation in Brazil has been mainly caused by the development of agricultural activities.
Deforestation in the world
The developed countries were the first to destroy their forests for economic gain.
Thus, a good part of the vegetated areas in the countries considered to be richer have been totally destroyed.
Today, developing countries are the main ones responsible for deforestation in the world.
At the same time, they are the main emitters of carbon, since their production levels of consumer goods and energy demand (which comes from burning coal) are higher than those of developing countries.
Global deforestation began with society’s production model based on the exploitation of natural resources for the development of productive activities.
This scenario was marked by the occupation of new territories through the great navigations and the colonization process, and also by the growth and consolidation of urbanization and industrialization on a global scale.
In the 20th century, deforestation was very recurrent in developed countries, since they were experiencing a broad process of industrialization and development of productive activities.
In the last decades, deforestation has been concentrated in the underdeveloped and emerging countries.
This scenario is the result of the economic policies of these countries, which are focused on the production of primary goods, especially those aimed at exportation.
In the world context, Brazil has a prominent place on rainforest deforestation, being known worldwide as one of the countries that deforest the most in the globe.
Besides Brazil, which traditionally leads the surveys on deforestation in the world, other countries that have tropical forests, such as Indonesia, Malaysia and the Democratic Republic of Congo, also have very high levels of deforestation.
Types of deforestation of rainforests
The main causes of deforestation are human actions, which aim to obtain profit. They are
- The illegal extraction of wood;
- The creation or expansion of areas for agriculture or cattle-raising;
- Criminal fires;
- Fires caused by the action of nature, such as lightning strikes in places of dry vegetation;
- The use of burning vegetation as an agricultural method. In addition to damaging the soil,
- there is the possibility of spreading to forested regions;
- The exploitation of minerals;
- The opening of mines for precious stones and metals;
- The creation of dams for hydroelectric power plants;
- Urban expansion.
The extraction of trees from forests occurs especially for commercial purposes, representing a reduction of the forested area. In addition, each tree cut down means more carbon dioxide (CO2) is released into the atmosphere, intensifying global warming.
In order to make an area suitable for large-scale planting, farmers first need to “clear the area. This means destroying and felling many trees, directly harming the local ecosystem. If the area is used solely for monoculture, the consequences will be even worse, given the infertility of the soil over the years.
Cattle raised for large-scale meat production require a lot of space for grazing, and therefore large areas are deforested to accommodate these animals.
Burning can be caused by natural consequences or by human action.
Burning as an agricultural technique has been used for hundreds of years as a way to “clean” the soil. Although it is forbidden, it is still common in clandestine activities and on smaller properties.
The search for minerals requires the removal of large forested areas in the surrounding area for the mining itself and for the construction of roads and access routes for the transport of goods.
Construction of hydroelectric power plants
The construction of hydroelectric power plants means megaconstructions that leave a trail of very great environmental interference where it passes. Deforestation is necessary for this kind of construction and it happens in a big way. Today this is the main source of electric energy in Brazil.
Over the last decades the amount of people migrating from the countryside to the big cities has only grown and, in order to house all this contingent, many changes, constructions and deforestation were necessary. Approximately 50% of the world’s population lives in urbanized regions.
Deforestation solutions on a global and regional level must focus on the possibility of reducing the cutting volume, preserving biodiversity, and ensuring adequate living conditions for the population. Thus, the alternatives are:
- Implementation of an economic model of production based on sustainable development;
- Participation of public power and private initiative in the development of environmental preservation actions;
- Enforcement of environmental legislation through inspection and punishment of environmental crimes;
- Bonuses for farmers and other economic players that contribute to the preservation of forest areas;
- Creation of conservation and environmental preservation units focusing on regions with high biodiversity;
- Promotion of reforestation policies for devastated areas with native species and repopulation of animals.