As the demand for wood rises, deforestation has become a worldwide problem. Shrunken forests can lead to widespread problems such as soil erosion, water cycle disruptions, greenhouse gas emissions, biodiversity loss, and climate change. These four issues, taken together, affect not only wild animals and plants but also humans.
Below we have listed the top 4 devastating consequences of deforestation:
1) Soil Erosion
Although it is easy to see soil as being compacted and stable, this is not always true. It is possible for the soil to be very loose and not always remain in one place. If it’s not properly anchored, it can be washed away or blow away by the wind. What holds the soil in place Most importantly, the roots of plants. Trees have large roots that can anchor large areas of soil. Soil erosion can be a problem when large forests are cleared. Eroding soil in some areas can cause catastrophic mudslides. Large quantities of soil can end up in rivers and streams, clogging waterways, and causing damage to irrigation infrastructure and hydroelectric structures. Deforestation can lead to soil erosion problems in certain areas that cause farming problems and the loss of reliable electricity.
2) Water Cycle Disruption
The water cycle describes the way water is distributed on Earth. Water evaporates from oceans on Earth and from surface bodies of freshwater, condenses into clouds, and water from lakes and rivers on Earth also condenses into water. Photosynthesis is also used by trees and other plants to extract groundwater from the atmosphere. Rain is then produced by clouds, which turns into groundwater and eventually ocean water.
The water that trees usually store, extract and release into the air is lost when they are chopped down in large numbers. Cleared forests that once had fertile, moist soil and lots of rain, become dry and barren. This type of climate change is known as desertification. Dry conditions can increase the risk of fire in peatland, and cause great losses of life for plants and animals who once lived in the forest.
3) Greenhouse Gas Emissions
Methane and carbon dioxide, which are greenhouse gases, trap heat in the Earth’s atmosphere. This can lead to climate change. Trees can also absorb carbon dioxide, which is a good thing because they release oxygen and water into our atmosphere. Trees are alive and can act as greenhouse gas filters. Once they are removed, carbon dioxide stored in their leaves and trunks is released into the atmosphere. This further contributes to the increase of greenhouse gases. The carbon dioxide that was once absorbed by the trees on a large area of land cannot be as easily removed.
An increase in greenhouse gases in the Earth’s atmosphere causes climate change. This affects wild animals and plants, as well as humans through weather changes and increased risk of natural disasters. Global greenhouse gas emissions are estimated to rise by as much as 30% each year due to deforestation.
4) Losses in Biodiversity
Living organisms have learned to adapt to new environments. This is how the Earth’s life can thrive in all environments, from the Arctic tundra to hot deserts. It takes time for life’s adaptation to take place. Many animals and plants die from deforestation, which alters the land too rapidly for them to adapt. Entire species could be exterminated if there is enough deforestation. This is called biodiversity loss.
Ecosystems are affected by biodiversity loss. If a small species becomes extinct, it can affect the populations of predators like birds that depend on them for food. Some plants may depend on birds for their seeds, and could also experience population declines. Each piece of an ecosystem is dependent on the other parts, so a loss of one species can have profound consequences for others.
It is important to note that biodiversity loss can result in what many would call the worst consequence of deforestation a loss of natural beauty and wonder. Wild forests are amazing places that are home to all kinds of life. New species are being discovered in places like Amazon every year. It is amazing to see and learn about this life, but we must stop deforestation.