Around 25% of global emissions come from the land sector, the second largest source of greenhouse gas emissions after the energy industry. About half of these come from deforestation and forest degradation. But there is hope, because forests capture carbon dioxide which would otherwise be free in the atmosphere warming up the planet.
Agriculture is one of the most significant causes of deforestation. It sounds harsh, and frankly it is but slash-and-burn agriculture is the simplest solution for farmers to nutriate the soil, by cutting down the trees, and burning what remains. This makes the soil more fertile as incinerated biomass provides nitrogen and other nourishing nutrients for the soil, but not for long.
The soil only stays nutrient rich for about two years, after this time, the nutrients from the burned biomass are used up. When this happens, farmers pack up and move on to the next section of the rainforest, leaving their farmland behind for others to use for cattle rearing, or abandon it completely.
Logging is also a common cause of deforestation as trees are cut down to use for wood and paper products. The most harmful one is called “clear cutting.” This is when an area of forest is completely deforested, leaving no trees alive in that area.
Oftentimes mono-planting (when only one species of tree is planted in that area), is a go-to remediation plan. And surprise, it’s not great, although this does help to remediate the complete loss of trees, it doesn’t remediate much else. All of the biodiversity lost to clear cutting is not remedied by mono-planting. This is because biodiversity is supported by a diversity of flora as well as fauna. Mono-cropping is therefore not a regenerative solution to clear cut land.
Trees undergo a natural process called “transpiration.” Yes, a little like sweating, but not the smelly kind. This is when the leaves of trees secrete water which is evaporated into the atmosphere. When this water evaporates, it becomes clouds, which swells with moisture and rains back down again. When trees are cut down in a forest, this eliminates or decreases the amount of transpiration, which means that the amount of rainfall in that area will decrease. This can lead to droughts in the area and for example affect local farmers and their crops.
Loss of Biodiversity
The loss of forests also means the loss of habitats for many species of plants and animals. Between 70 and 80% of the world’s plants and animals live in forests and are losing their habitats to deforestation.
When trees are cut down, it means that the surrounding soil becomes loosened from the ground, and can be blown away by wind, or washed away by rain. This is the ideal recipe for both flooding when there’s heavy rains, and for droughts, since the water can’t be stored in the ground.