Trees are very important to the environment, animals, as well as human beings. They play a vital role in balancing the climate on earth. Trees act as a filter of carbon dioxide, and are the natural habitat and shelter of millions of species. However, trees are being cut down at a very alarming rate due to human activities. Deforestation is one of the serious environmental problems the world faces today. The destruction of rainforests also adversely affects biodiversity.
The main reason why trees are cut down is to satisfy human needs. Forests are cut down mainly to grow crops, to create grazing land, for oil and mining exploitation, and to establish roads and railroads. Trees are also cut down to be used as lumber for construction purposes and for fuel. Discussed below are the disastrous consequences of deforestation.
Climate Change: Deforestation is one of the major causes for global climate change. Global warming is being caused largely due to emissions of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Trees and other plants remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere during the process of photosynthesis and release oxygen back into the atmosphere during normal respiration. When deforestation occurs, many of the trees that are cut down are either burnt left to rot, which releases the carbon that is stored in them as carbon dioxide. This results in a greater concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Deforestation may also cause carbon stores held in soil to be released.
Disruption of the Water Cycle: Trees contribute in a large way in maintaining the water cycle, and deforestation adversely affects this cycle. Trees extract groundwater through their roots and release it into the atmosphere. When trees are cut down, they no longer evaporate away this water, resulting in a much drier climate. Therefore, deforestation reduces the content of water in the soil and groundwater thereby resulting in the climate getting drier. When the area of forests decrease, the landscape’s capacity to intercept, retain and transpire precipitation decreases. In areas of deforestation, when it rains, the land will not have the capacity to retain the water, which ultimately flows off, resulting in flash floods in low lying areas.
Soil Erosion: Tree roots bind soil together, and keep the soil in place by binding it with the underlying bedrock. When forest areas are cleared the soil is directly exposed to the sun. As a result the soil becomes very dry and ultimately, infertile, due to loss of the soil’s nutrients. Later on, when it rains, all the remaining nutrients will be washed away by the rainwater into waterways. Ultimately, cultivation on such land will also become impossible. Tree removal on steep slopes with shallow soil therefore increases the risk of landslides.
Loss of Biodiversity: Deforestation adversely affects the biodiversity. Forests provide habitat for the wildlife. Due to massive deforestation, about 50 to 100 species of animals are being lost each day. This has resulted in the extinction of animals and plants on a massive scale.