In August 2019, after an alarming surge of forest wildfires in Brazil, a global outcry prompted world leaders to grapple with why deforestation is bad for our planet.1 It is a trend that we rapidly need to reverse.
3 reasons why deforestation is bad
Deforestation refers to the clearing of large numbers of trees to make way for other uses for land.2 Put simply, deforestation is bad for people, bad for animals and bad for the environment. Here’s why.
Deforestation contributes to air pollution
Without this process, the CO2 levels in the air would rise exponentially. In 2018, air pollution inside and outside the home killed an estimated 8.7 million people worldwide. This set a new record. There is a clear link between air pollution from fossil fuels and a rise in heart disease, respiratory ailments and even loss of eyesight, according to scientists.5
Deforestation is bad for animals
The Amazon rainforest basin is home to one of the largest collections of wild animal and plant species in the world. It is home to one in 10 of all species on Earth. While rainforests make up only six per cent of the world’s surface area, they are home to over half of the planet’s species.6 The warm tropical climate makes it a haven for animals to thrive and feed on each other.
But Amazonian animals are utterly unprepared for forest fires, which is the method frequently used to clear land for cattle ranching. Over the last few decades, most of the forest cleared in the Amazon has been to create space for cattle.7 Deforestation through forest fires kills animals directly. Even worse, it leaves less space for animals to feed on leaves or for larger animals to feed on smaller species that need leaves. It can have a devastating impact on animal populations.
Deforestation is harmful to the environment
Deforestation is destructive for the broader environment too. Trees attract clouds and rain, which in turn feeds the soil and the wider ecosystem.8 Deforestation can result in more extreme climate conditions, such as flash flooding, as trees are an excellent natural defence against floods and droughts.9
But most importantly, forests regulate the temperature of the planet by absorbing greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide. Deforestation can raise global temperatures and lead to climate change, which is already destabilising weather patterns worldwide.10 We need to protect habitats such as the Amazon against deforestation, as our lives are at stake.
- Macmillan Publishers Limited, part of Springer Nature (2019). Alarming surge in Amazon fires prompts global outcry – and about time too. [online] Nature.com. Available at: https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-019-02537-0.
- Pimm, S.L. (2018). deforestation | Definition & Facts. In: Encyclopædia Britannica. [online] Available at: https://www.britannica.com/science/deforestation.
- Bassham, J.A. and Lambers, H. (2019). photosynthesis | Importance, Process, & Reactions. In: Encyclopædia Britannica. [online] Available at: https://www.britannica.com/science/photosynthesis.
- Meredith, S. (2019). “The lungs of the Earth are in flames”: Brazil faces global backlash over Amazon fires. [online] CNBC. Available at: https://www.cnbc.com/2019/08/23/amazon-fires-brazils-bolsonaro-faces-backlash-from-world-leaders.html [Accessed 25 Oct. 2019].
- Milman, O. (2021). “Invisible killer”: fossil fuels caused 8.7m deaths globally in 2018, research finds. The Guardian. [online] 9 Feb. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/feb/09/fossil-fuels-pollution-deaths-research.
- Animals. (2019). What the Amazon fires mean for wild animals. [online] Available at: https://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/article/how-the-amazon-rainforest-wildfires-will-affect-wild-animals.
- Butler, R. (2020). Amazon Destruction. [online] Mongabay.com. Available at: https://rainforests.mongabay.com/amazon/amazon_destruction.html.
- Evans, K. (2015). Make it rain: Planting forests could help drought-stricken regions – CIFOR Forests News. [online] CIFOR Forests News. Available at: https://forestsnews.cifor.org/10316/make-it-rain-planting-forests-to-help-drought-stricken-regions?fnl=en.
Trust, W. (n.d.). Role of Trees in Flood Protection. [online] Woodland Trust. Available at: https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/publications/2014/05/role-of-trees-in-flood-protection/ [Accessed 24 Mar. 2021].
- Union of Concerned Scientists. (2012). Tropical Deforestation and Global Warming. [online] Available at: https://www.ucsusa.org/resources/tropical-deforestation-and-global-warming.