Human beings always have been and probably always will be to some extent dependent on forests. Trees were their habitat, their environment, their source of food and their protection from enemies. Forests are very important to man, and other organisms, and one of the biggest problems the world is facing today is the threat of totally losing the forests due to massive deforestation and suffering the harmful effects of deforestation.
Deforestation can be defined as the large scale removal of forests. Deforestation occurs when forests are converted to non-forest areas for urbanization, agriculture, and other reasons without sufficient reforestation. It is the permanent destruction of forests and woodlands.
At present, forests are considered among the most endangered on the planet. Everyday at least 80,000 acres of forest vanish from Earth. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations show that the rates of deforestation has not abated and has actually increased by 8.5% from 2000-2005 compared during the 1990s. FAO has approximated that about 10.4 million hectares of tropical forest have been permanently destroyed from 2000-2005 compared to 10.14 million hectares in the period of 1990-2000.
The process of deforestation is often a complex pattern of progressive fragmentation of the forests. Mistakes of this sort could lead to forest destruction. Along with this destruction is the extinction of many species, heavy soil erosion, greenhouse effect, silting of rivers and dams, flooding, landslides, denuded upland, degraded watershed, and even destruction of corals along the coast.
Extinction of Thousands of Species - Destruction of the forests leads to a tragic loss of biodiversity. Millions of plants and animal species are in danger of disappearing as a result of deforestation. Tropical forests are much more biologically diverse than other forest and a very serious effect of deforestation in tropical countries is the loss of biodiversity.
Heavy Soil Erosion - One function of the forest is that its roots hold the soil in place. Without trees soil erosion and landslides easily happen. When heavy rains and typhoons come, soil is easily carried to lower areas especially to communities at the foot of the mountains.
Greenhouse Effect - Deforestation increases the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The conitnued degradation of our forest heightens the threat of global warming because the trees and other plants that takes up carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to be used for photosynthesis are gone. The burning of wood or its decay contributes to the release of more carbon which combines with oxygen in the atmosphere thus increasing further the levels of carbon dioxide that causes greenhouse effect.
Silting of Rivers and Dams - Deforestation results in the silting of rivers sediments deposit which shortens its life span and clogs irrigation system. As a result of deforestation, the reservoir behind many dams are filled with sediments more rapidly than expected.
Flooding - One major importance of forest is that they absorb water quickly in great amount during heavy rains. But due to massive deforestation there are no trees to absorb the water thus resulting to the loss of many lives.
Landslides - The roots of the trees bind soil to it and to the bedroock underlying it. That is how trees prevent soil from getting eroded by natural agents like wind or water. When trees are uprooted, there will be nothing to hold the soil together thus increasing the risk for landslides which can cause seriously threaten the safety of the people and damage their properties.
Denuded Upland - After several harvests of the forest the cleared land is no longer suitable for planting trees. It has become a desert. The transformation of a forest to a semi-desert condition is called desertification.
Degraded Watershed - When forest mountains are denuded, watersheds are degraded and this leads to the loss of sustained water supplies for lowland communities. This is because trees affect the hydrological cycle. They can change the amount of water in the soil, groundwater, and in the atmosphere.
Destruction of Corals along the Coast - Coral areas are degraded and coral reefs are affected by siltation. As a result of deforestation there is an increase of flooding during the rainy seasons and decreased stream flow in dry seasons.
The forest provides us with many products and important services. It stops soil erosion, refreshes the air, and protect us from typhoons and other calamities. But if rampant deforestation is not controlled it will result to several problems. In one way or another, the denuded forests will back fire and people will certainly lose to the harmful effects of deforestation.