In recent years, environmental issues have become a growing concern to every nation. In most cases, the environmental issues deal with issues regarding conserving the environment as well as making sure that the planet's natural vegetation remains undamaged. Over the years, deforestation has been witnessed in many parts of the world. In many of the areas, deforestation has led to massive loss of the vegetative cover as well as loss of natural habitat that was once home to indigenous animal and plant species. Due to the impacts of deforestation, recent events such as global warming and climate change can be attributed to the phenomenon (Fearnside, 2006). Global warming and climate change have resulted in increased temperatures in many parts of the world. With this growing concern efforts have been made to come up with adequate measures of dealing with the continued reduction in forest cover in the world. Based on different statistics presented, different parts of the world face an ever-increasing challenge of deforestation and there is a need to urgently deal with the issue.
Global Perspective of Deforestation.In dealing with deforestation, one cannot fail to mention the existing problem that continues to face the Amazon. Regarded as one of largest rainforest in the world, the Amazon rainforest is home to nearly a quarter of the earth's species; both animal and plants (Malhi et al, 2008). In addition to harbouring nearly a quarter of the earth's species, the Amazon has over the recent years also acted as both a tourist destination as well as a study hub for mist of the scientists who seek to explore the rare species found at the Amazon. The Amazon covers close to 5.4 million square Kilometres of rainforest shared between three countries; Brazil, Bolivia and Peru (Kalamandeen, 2018). With deforestation continuing to persist around the area, majority of the area initially covered by the forest have been lost recently. An illustration of this is with the situation in Bolivia. Due to the increased agricultural related activities in the region, the area in Santa Cruz Bolivia is regarded as one of the hotspots as far as deforestation is concerned (Pacheco & Mertens, 2004). Much of the agricultural activity in this area has been attributed to the rise in the soybean plantations which have their origins in Brazil (Kaimowitz & Smith, 2001). Given that the Amazonian area has the best breeding grounds for soybean plantations, the decrease in forest cover has been mostly attributed to the rise of the plant which has been extended from Brazil. In addition to the soybean plantations, other agricultural activities such as the rise in palm oil agribusiness has seen the reduction of the forest cover in the area. The rise of agricultural activities as well as human construction such as the Interoceanic Highway that runs from Brazil to the Matarani Port in Peru can also said to be the contributing factors to the loss of the forest cover in the Amazon.
Figure 1. Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon
The figure above represents the deforestation situation in the Amazon. Amazon represents one of the regions where deforestation is at a higher level. The area under deforestation was obtained by taking the original area of land under forest cover in 1970 then obtaining the difference with the area of land in the subsequent year. From the figure it is clear that on average ten of thousands of areas of land is subjected to deforestation. The time period under investigation is the years between 1990 and 2017. Although the rates of deforestation have been inconsistent through out the years, the area of land subjected to deforestation is one which needs to be examined.
From the figure, it is clear that deforestation in the Amazon was mostly dominant in two periods of time, in the early 1990's and in the mid 2000's. During the period between 1994 to 1996, deforestation was high. In this period of time, the area of land under deforestation was between 17000 to 30000 square kilometers. In 1995, deforestation was at its all time high with nearly 29000 square kilometers of the forest area was subjected to deforestation. In early years of the 2000's also experienced increasing levels of deforestation in the Amazon. During this period, 2004 was the year that deforestation was at its high with nearly 27000 square kilometers of land was cleared by deforestation. The increase in the forest area under deforestation can eb attributed to a number of factors one of them being increase in human activity. As the years go by, it is observed that deforestation activities in the Amazon decrease. 2012 was the year which recorded the lowest numbers in terms of deforestation.
Apart from southern parts of the Americans, Africa has also witnessed it fair share of the issue. It has been approximated that more than 21% of the forest cover in Africa has been lost (Aleman et al, 2017). Most of the deforestation in Africa has been observed in the Eastern and Western part of the continental. These areas represent the parts of the continents with the most forest cover. The decline in the forest cover can be mostly attributed to human settlement and human activity such as poaching. Being most of the countries in Africa regarded as being developing countries, urbanization is forcing most of the population to move away from urban areas and settle in areas covered by forests (Guneralp et al, 2017). Among the factors that has enabled the continent to face increasing numbers in terms of urbanization is the ever growing population growth rate. Africa is one of the continents that has seen its population grow at rates that can be considered to be alarming. By the year 2050, it is projected that the human population in Africa is expected to reach 1.339 billion. This number represents nearly 21% of the world's total population as at the year 2050 (United Nations[UN], 2014). The increasing human population together with Africa's ack of effective measures in dealing with urbanization has made it possible for deforestation to thrive in the region with most people turning to the forests for alternative habitats (Potts, 2012).
Figure 2. World Forest Cover in 1990
Figure 3. World Forest Cover in 2008
The two pie charts represent the area of land that is covered by forest. From the figure, two periods are examined; 1990 and 2008. From the figure it is clear that the world's forest cover has been in a declining rate. Take an illustration of the situation in 1990, Europe had the largest area of land covered by forest. During this time, 989 million hectares of land was covered by forests. This represented 24% of the world's forest cover in Europe. In 2010, the area of land covered by forest in Europe increased to 1005 million Hectares. This figure represented an increase of 16 million hectares of land under forest cover. In 2010, the area of land under forest cover in Europe increased to 25% of the total forest cover in the world. In contrast to that, there were other parts of the world where the forest cover decreased within the two periods. Areas such as Africa and South America experienced some decrease in the area of land under forest cover. In 1990, the area of land under forest cover in Africa was 749 million hectares. During this year, this figure represented 18% of the world's total forest cover. In 2010, this number decreased to 674 million hectares. This difference represents a decrease of 75 million hectares of forest cover lost through deforestation. In 2010, the area of land under forest cover in Africa dropped to 17% of the world's total forest cover.
Impact of Deforestation
Knowing that different parts of the world undergo deforestation at alarming rates, the impact accompanying deforestation has resulted in the change of the earth's climatic conditions. With deforestation, the earth is exposed to direct sunlight while at the same time it looses its source of rainfall. Forests are a key factor as far as rainfall is concerned. Cutting down trees ultimately means that we are doing away with the source of rainfall. This in turn has a direct effect as far as he earth's water balance is concerned. This means that there will be an uneven distribution of the earth's water bodies due to deforestation (Li et al, 2016). In order to have an even balance in the earth's water surface, the presence of forests is key. Forests will ensure that different water bodies in the world remain full.
Forests are also important in maintaining the surface's carbon dioxide balance. As mentioned earlier, one of the reasons behind increased deforestation activities is the rise in agricultural activities. The lands occupied with agricultural products or which have been transformed as a result of agriculture represent nearly 38% of the earth's surface. One may view this as being a positive trend in the world's ecological balance. In actual sense, these lands represent nearly 25 to 40 % of lands that were previously occupied by forests. A closer observation suggests that nearly a quarter to half of the earth's surface that was once occupied by forests have now been converted into agricultural lands (Ramankutty et al, 2008). Forest are a key feature in ensuring that there is a well-balanced carbon dioxide supply in the earth's atmosphere. The agricultural plants and vegetation replacing the forests do not offer the same. As a result, the carbon dioxide balance on earth is greatly affected. The overall effect is that climate change occurs that negatively affects the atmosphere.
Apart from affecting the carbon dioxide balance in the atmosphere, deforestation also affects the earth's temperature balance. With most of the deforestation occurring in the tropical areas such as the Amazon rainforest, the climatic conditions in such places are set to change. Areas that were previously believed to be cool are faced with the danger of extreme heat and high temperatures (Walker & Sydneysmith, 2007). There have been a number of events that have shaped the earth's original look which can be traced to deforestation. As continued presence of human activity continue in areas previously occupied by forests, the earth continue to change.
Most of the tropical forests are homes to majority of the earth's biodiversity and rare species that cannot be found anywhere else on earth. These species regard these tropical forests as their home as they cannot survive anywhere else on the earth. The tropical forests provide a suitable habitat for their existence. Examples of rare species found in tropical forest include the Malayan Tiger. The Tiger represents one of the rare Tiger species located in the Mainland areas of Malaysia. Increased human activity in such areas have to the decline of the Tiger species. With the population estimated to be around 300, the number suggests that increased human activity has led to the species to be nearly declared extinct. The species has its home in the Malaysian forests as it cannot survive anywhere else in the world. This begs the question whether deforestation will be the likely cause of mass extinction of certain species in the near future (Giama, 2017).
Human wildlife conflict has been another result of deforestation. With the increasing number of deforestation activities recorded, there has been a growing concern in relation to the human-wildlife conflict. As the human population continues to encroach into the tropical forests where indigenous plants and animals are located, they face a challenge as there have been cases of human attacks by the same animals they are trying to displace. As a result, thousands have lost their lives. Areas such as the Southern parts of Asia have experienced increasing cases oh human wildlife conflict. Areas such as India has over the years witnessed increasing numbers in human wildlif...
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