Destruction of tropical rainforests

“Tropical rainforests are found in places of high rainfall, high humidity and low seasonal variation, which promote luxuriant growth throughout the year”. Deforestation is the large scale removal of forest, like the Amazon in the South America, prior to its replacement by other land uses.Currently deforestation is taking place at about “17 million hectares” each year; this is an area larger than England, Wales, and Northern Ireland combined. This vast destruction is not only having a detrimental effect on the environment but also on the people who live there.The forest is being cut down because it is seen as a “get rich quick idea” by many developing countries that need the money to help to salvage its economy from debt. The land, which is left, is used for the building of roads (e.g. Trans Amazonian highway), cattle ranching, farming, for housing and for many other applications. The tropical forest is also cleared for its products such as timber that the developed world demands, rubber and food. These things provide employment for a lot of people. However, the effects are catastrophic. The two most common causes for deforestation are shifting cultivation and commercial logging.Shifting cultivation is when farmers chop down land and farm it, and, then, move on to better land once it is not profitable to them. Commercial logging is simply to get the wood. This is no threat to the forest; provided that it is carried out sustainably, and used areas are left to regenerate for long periods before repeating the process. The problems occur when the soil is intensively farmed, so that the soil degradation is irreversible which means that the soil can no longer be used. Commercial logging has become a problem. New machinery speeds up the process and does not give trees the time to grow back.The removal of the canopy in the rainforest means that the heavy rainfall in the tropics can attack the soil. This results in the leaching of nutrients, which means that trees can no longer grow back because the soil becomes infertile. This problem can result in desertification; which is when without trees there will be less evapotranspiration, therefore, a decrease of water vapour in the air. This will reduce rainfall totals and, according to experts, will increase the possibility of tropical rainforests like the Amazon being turned into a desert.Another consequence of deforestation is of particular concern to scientists. Tropical rainforests have a great range of biodiversity because they have a range of habitat, species and genetic types. It is estimated that only a small percent of plants and animals living in tropical rainforests have been identified. Scientists believe that many of these may hold the keys to finding cures for some of the most deadly diseases known to man. For example, the “US National Cancer Institute has catalogued some 3,000 plants with anti cancer properties. 70 percent of these are found in tropical rainforests.”Over half of our modern medicines originate in the rainforest. “Recently one plant, periwinkle, has been used successfully to treat child leukaemia reducing deaths from 80% to 20%.” There are almost endless medical possibilities to be found in the rainforest and if the deforestation is not stopped these possibilities will be lost forever.Another negative effect is that the climate can become more extreme in nature. The probability of flooding increases because the forest is no longer able to store the rainwater. This means that water returns to the river quickly and thus a build up of water. Flooding can cause the loss of animals habitats and can kill the forest as well as the people who live in it.Global warming has become more apparent since deforestation has accelerated. The forest stores large amount of carbon, which are eventually released as carbon dioxide when the trees are burnt. Vast amounts of carbon dioxide are produced because one third of the world’s population depend on wood for fuel as a significant energy source. “Global warming occurs because of the build up of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide, CFC’s and methane.” The Earth is warmed during the day by incoming radiation from the sun. The Earth loses heat at night through out going infrared radiation.The greenhouse gases stop the infrared radiation from leaving the atmosphere hence an increase in temperature. Global warming also has an agglomeration effect because it also causes thermal expansion and the melting of polar ice caps. Thermal expansion is when the seawater expands due to increases in temperature. This combined with melting ice endangers low lying countries like Bangladesh and also cities like London; if the sea level was to rise by just one metre then London would be half covered by water.It can clearly be seen that destruction of tropical rainforests can lead to serious problems. However humans can make a difference. We must look to sustainable development so that we meet the needs of the current generation without undermining the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. This means restricting the current acceleration of deforestation, and, eventually stabilising the area of tropical rainforest or even growing the area of rainforest in the world.”Education is an effective catalyst for change.” Young people need to be informed of the basic facts to improve their awareness, and, adults need to take responsibility and come to compromises. People can use recycled goods such as paper to reduce the demand for timber thus playing their part. The developed world needs to financially aid, or, subsidise the developing world if the deforestation is to be slowed. Developing countries will continue to destroy the rainforest until they can afford not to.The trees in the rainforest provide fruits, spices, medicines and fibres. If some of these are put on the “international market it is estimated that each hectare of land could produce �5000.” This is much more money than the amount that is made in cattle ranching and commercial logging. If this was done then the rainforest could remain and could continue to produce goods. Shifting cultivators should be taught to practice alley cropping in which they leave rows of trees between crops. This improves fertility of soil, keeps some plants out of extinction and increases yields.In conclusion it can be seen that deforestation has many economical, environmental and social effects. However there are ways to slow the process so that future generations are not drastically affected.

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