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Living Environment Regents June 2006 Question 62 PDF Print E-mail
NYS Living Environment Regents June 2006

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Deforestation is the permanent destruction of indigenous forests and woodlands.

Deforestation is brought about by the following: conversion of forests and woodlands to agricultural land to feed growing numbers of people; development of cash crops and cattle ranching, both of which earn money for tropical countries; commercial logging (which supplies the world market with woods such as meranti, teak, mahogany and ebony) destroys trees as well as opening up forests for agriculture; felling of trees for firewood and building material; the heavy lopping of foliage for fodder; and heavy browsing of saplings by domestic animals like goats.

To compound the problem, the poor soils of the humid tropics do not support agriculture for long. Thus people are often forced to move on and clear more forests in order to maintain production.

There are many consequences faced by the environment because of deforestation. There is alteration of local and global climates through disruption of:

a) The carbon cycle. Forests act as a major carbon store because carbon dioxide (CO2) is taken up from the atmosphere and used to produce the carbohydrates, fats, and proteins that make up the tree. When forests are cleared, and the trees are either burnt or rot, this carbon is released as CO2. This leads to an increase in the atmospheric CO2 concentration. CO2 is the major contributor to the greenhouse effect. It is estimated that deforestation contributes one-third of all CO2 releases caused by people

b) The water cycle. Trees draw ground water up through their roots and release it into the atmosphere (transpiration). In Amazonia over half of all the water circulating through the region's ecosystem remains within the plants. With removal of part of the forest, the region cannot hold as much water. The effect of this could be a drier climate.

Aside from the climate changes, deforestation also causes soil erosion with the loss of a protective cover of vegetation more soil is lost. Soil erosion further causes silting of water courses, lakes and dams.

Another effect of deforestation is the extinction of species which depend on the forest for survival. Forests contain more than half of all species on our planet - as the habitat of these species is destroyed, so the number of species declines.

To lessen the effects of deforestation, we must prevent forest fires, avoid conversion of forestlands to other land uses ie agriculture, mining area, etc.

 

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