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What are Some of the Effects of Deforestation?

Jessica Ellis
Updated Jun 04, 2024
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Some of the major effects of deforestation include biodiversity loss, local climate change and global warming. Farmers often have trouble raising crops, which typically results in more problems, such as an increase in food prices. Soil erosion and cultural displacement also can occur. Those who want to address the problem have a variety of options, however.

Biodiversity Loss

A loss of biodiversity often follows a reduction in the amount of forested land. Trees, shrubs and other plants provide shelter, food and shade for an enormous range of bacteria, fungi, insects, animals and birds. When deforestation occurs, it generally is much harder for the environment to sustain this variety, simply because not all organisms can survive in the same habitat or conditions.

According to National Geographic, as much as 70% of the world’s plants and animals live in forests. Experts from the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), World Wildlife Fund and other environmentalist groups believe that, because of this problem, the planet already has lost thousands of species and might lose thousands more.

Local Climate Change

Plants release moisture into the air as a result of cellular respiration, the complex metabolic process by which living things get energy. Leaves and branches also filter sunlight and prevent it from directly reaching the ground, so in most cases, the soil and air under the forest canopy stays moist and relatively cool. When trees are removed, soil usually starts to dry out and cannot support as many living things, and local temperatures increase due to lack of shade. Rain typically occurs less frequently due to the lack of water vapor in the air. Some scientists argue that one of the biggest effects of deforestation is a massive increase in desert terrain, as soil deprived of constant moisture eventually can turn into largely barren sand.

Agricultural and Financial Losses

Local climate change that occurs with deforestation can have devastating effects on farmers. With less rain, crops typically cannot get enough water to thrive and produce a good yield, and food shortages sometimes happen. The decrease in supply usually causes prices on crops to go up, which can have long-reaching economic effects worldwide. The rise in cost doesn’t always guarantee that those involved in agriculture can cover their operational expenses, and many farmers end up barely breaking even, taking out loans or even filing for bankruptcy. Even when irrigation systems are available, the lack of precipitation often lowers the water table, making using those systems more of a challenge.

Soil Erosion

The roots and stems of plants create an intricate network that makes it harder for dirt to get swept away by forces such as wind and water. With fewer plants, this natural framework becomes less effective at holding soil in place, and erosion becomes more likely, especially if the deforestation already has caused the ground to become extremely dry. When rainfall does happen, mudslides can take place more easily.

Global Warming

Trees and other plants convert carbon dioxide into breathable oxygen. Deforestation means there aren’t as many plants to carry out this process. To complicate the issue, whenever plants burn — which might happen intentionally to clear land or naturally such as with a lightning strike — they release carbon dioxide into the air. This natural gas makes it harder for heat to escape from Earth back out into space, potentially contributing to the greenhouse effect and increasing global warming.

The rise of worldwide temperatures over time is a hotly debated topic, with some individuals going so far as to say that the entire concept of global warming is nothing more than a hoax supported by radical environmentalists. The majority of the scientific community, however, recognizes it as a reality, although there is some debate about the underlying causes. Scientists often warn about the significant long-term effects of climate change, like the lack of habitat for species such as polar bears because of the melting of arctic ice.

Cultural Displacement

In many cases, the people who live in a forested area do not have legal rights to the property. They are there simply because their ancestors were there, and because the land remained suitable enough to sustain continued generations over time. Companies that want to develop these regions sometimes make efforts to help native people transition into a more industrial lifestyle, but often, groups are simply pushed out of the way onto different land. These individuals generally have to adapt quickly to survive, and even when they do, the changes they accept often put them at risk of losing their traditional ways of life.

Addressing the Problem

Planting more trees is a simple way to fight the negative effects of deforestation, but depending on the species used, people usually have to wait many years before the forest matures. It takes even more time for other organisms to get used to the area and make it their own in a distinct ecosystem. The high rate of destruction, therefore, requires that people also take more immediate steps to fix the problem.

Some individuals and businesses are taking a stand for the environment by going paperless, using technology to communicate, perform tasks and keep records. Recycling also helps reduce the amount of trees that are cut down unnecessarily. Supporting groups such as the Forest Stewardship Council is an additional option, as is lobbying for increased regulations related to environmental protection and the power of logging, construction, road, mining and hydroelectric dam companies.

All Things Nature is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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Jessica Ellis
By Jessica Ellis
With a B.A. in theater from UCLA and a graduate degree in screenwriting from the American Film Institute, Jessica Ellis brings a unique perspective to her work as a writer for All Things Nature. While passionate about drama and film, Jessica enjoys learning and writing about a wide range of topics, creating content that is both informative and engaging for readers.
Discussion Comments
By anon932901 — On Feb 13, 2014

This has to stop. Nature is cruel itself (you know).

By anon329800 — On Apr 11, 2013

Deforestation: Area of trees that are cut down. It is estimated that in 2012, deforestation will account for approximately 12 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. But in the previous years, most deforestation took place in tropical rainforests. Why would they take place here? Because of the animals? Or because of all the tree species that are all there?

The newest scientific venture is a joint project with the Canadians and the Dutch. Real scientists say that the biggest cause of the global deforestation is agriculture. Agriculture is responsible for approximately 80 percent of the worldwide deforestation. How much is really 80 percent though? 80 percent is over half. That is almost everything that is there.

People don't think about anything they do. What they care about are their jobs and paychecks for their houses or cars or something else. But what they need to think about is where the things come from, like paper, the lead, almost everything. Because most of the things we have are made from chemicals and materials from trees. We live off things from trees. All some people do is their job so they can earn money for themselves and their families. But that's just my opinion on this.

But anyway, the Amazon rainforest actually produces the most worrying effects of deforestation. The Amazon is the most worrying because it's the largest rainforest in the world. The rainforest has a key role, though. It provides proper functioning of Earth's hydrological and climatological systems. A hydrological system is the entire water cycle. The climatological system has five components atmosphere, hydrosphere, cryosphere, land surface, and biosphere.

The reason deforestation isn't stopping in the Amazon is because farmers continue to chop, slash, or burn down trees. They do that just so they can have room for their farm(s). But what they can do is instead of chopping them down they could find an area where it's clear already. This is the reason why deforestation is happening, by everyone chopping, slashing, or burning the trees down. Nature is one of the environmental issues we have had for plenty of years, and deforestation won't stop until someone steps up to the plate and spreads something around to make people stop.

Deforestation isn't just happening in the United States; it is everywhere you look. It's all over the world and in places you wouldn't think it would be. Our rainforests are major carbon sinkers. The 2012 U.S study from U.S. scientists at Boston University says the tropical vegetation contains 21 percent more carbon than previously thought.

Deforestation isn't just about cutting trees down. It's also about climate change, land form destruction, and soil that dries up. It's messing up a lot of the environment. People need to be informed about what they are really doing when they do something. They're not just cutting trees down. They're ruining their own environment, their property, our world, our state, and most of all, our home. We've been living on this earth for over a million years and we're going to treat it like it's nothing? People need to wake up and realize they are ruining our home and they're not the only ones doing it. There are many others and they all need to wake up and stop destroying our home.

Deforestation is to blame for ruining the rainforests. Since forests are being destroyed, one day, there will be no trees or a single forest. Over half of the animals and plant species live in rainforests. So they're also destroying the animals and their habitat. Also, subsistence farming is responsible for 48 percent of deforestation. That's almost half. But that's only for subsistence farming. Anyone could guess on how much this has happened since the 1980's and no one would be close enough.

By anon270216 — On May 21, 2012

This needs to be minimized. i am a science teacher and believe this needs to stop.

By anon270215 — On May 21, 2012

I believe people now days are taking more then they need. The destruction of trees is not only affecting humidity and the shortage of oxygen or the reduced amount of carbon dioxide that is released into the atmosphere, but also the animals' natural habitat is destroyed by the clearing of forestry to build companies and buildings. Remember New Zealand is a clean and green country but all of that will change if we don't. --clare marea

By Amphibious54 — On Jun 15, 2010

@ Parmnparsley - As far as your question about wood used in building supplies, there are many options for eco-friendly building. Engineered woods use more of the timber that is cut, and eliminate waste during the construction process.

Consumers can also use Bamboo flooring, wall paper, and decking in the building of their homes. In fact Bamboo can be used in many other applications besides homebuilding. Bamboo is also sustainable because it can be harvested every 7-14 years. Wood on the other hand takes decades to almost a century to grow before it can be harvested. Bamboo also has antimicrobial properties, and is extremely hard and weather resistant; making it last longer than most untreated woods.

Bamboo and other sustainably are often certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), which is one of the strictest and most socially and environmentally responsible forestry agencies in the world. Also, top quality bamboo products are often CARB compliant; meaning that they emit ultra low levels of formaldehyde and other VOCs.

By Alchemy — On Jun 15, 2010

@ parmnparsley - The list of companies that are directly or indirectly responsible for the deforestation of the Earth are too numerous to count. It has actually reached the point where more industry is responsible for more deforestation than population growth and subsistence living. If you want to help decrease deforestation you can start by buying paper goods made from 100% recycled materials. If enough people send companies emails, they can also convince them to use sustainably harvested or recycled paper products in their packaging.

The fast food and processed foods industry also uses lots of palm oil in their products. New palm oil fields are almost always situated on the fertile grounds acquired by the slashing and burning of rain forests (this is why biodiesel made from palm oil is worse for the environment than petroleum diesel). The Beef and soy industries are also very large contributors to the deforestation of rain forests. So much of the American diet consists of beef and soy, so the only way to decrease the supply of these products is to reduce demand. Cutting back on the amount of beef you eat each week as well as eating less processed foods containing soy both help to reduce demand.

By parmnparsley — On Jun 15, 2010

How can consumers tell what companies are the culprits behind massive deforestation? Are all companies that sell products made from wood using materials from clear cut forests, unless they state otherwise? Are there any agencies tasked with guaranteeing the sustainable harvesting of wood?

This article made me think about all of the products that I use that are made from wood. Everything from toilet paper and office supplies to wood flooring and decking. What can I do besides donate to a conservation organization to prevent massive deforestation? It seems like if people only donate to conservation causes without actually altering their patterns of consumption, they are merely throwing their resources into a bottomless pit.

Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis
With a B.A. in theater from UCLA and a graduate degree in screenwriting from the American Film Institute, Jessica Ellis...
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