20 Deforestation Facts to Make Us More Mindful of Wood Waste
What do you think of when you use paper or wood – or any other byproduct of forests? Do you ever think of the trees cut down to make those products? More often than not, we are not aware of the mass felling that takes place around the world and we need some deforestation facts to remind us.
Many centuries ago, before cities started to pop up left and right, more than 60 percent of the planet was covered in forests. However, we will soon reach rock bottom when less than 10 percent of those will be left. Deforestation is the leading problem, whether it’s caused by natural or man-made activities.
No More Rainforests
What exactly classifies as deforestation? According to WWF, it occurs when forests are cut down and land is cleared out to be used for other purposes. Given that there are some 7 billion people on the planet, it makes sense that we would need to build cities, grow food, and raise livestock.
However, all of these actions tend to have a rather negative effect on the environment in general and on forests in particular. Moreover, people make money by cutting down forests and selling the wood and lumber for conversion into other necessary products, not the least of which is paper.
Read on for some worrisome deforestation facts. If the current rate of tree felling continues, we will soon be met with the prospect of living on a planet without forests. According to scientists, rainforests may disappear within less than 100 years. This article aims to raise public awareness about our environment and the importance of forests.
Distressing Deforestation Facts
While there are other man-made actions that also leave a negative footprint on Earth – such as desertification, greenhouse gas emissions, or air pollution – deforestation is one of the most urgent issues.
- More than 13 million hectares of forests have already disappeared through natural disaster or deforestation. By the year 2030, scientists estimate we might have only 10 percent of our forests left. If we don’t do something, all of them might disappear in less than a century.
- Agriculture is the No. 1 cause of deforestation. We clear the forests because we need to raise livestock or plant other crops. Commercial fields of palm oil and sugar cane are often the primary crops that cause deforestation.
- At the moment, we have five major rainforests left: The Amazon in South America, Southeast Asia, The Congo in Central Africa, Madagascar, and New Guinea. All of them are threatened one way or another and at various degrees.
- Even though rainforests cover only 6 percent of the world’s land surface, they provide ecosystems and shelter to more than 50 percent of all the plant and animal species on Earth.
- Interesting fact: A 4-square-mile lot of rainforest can be home to as many as 1,500 flowering plants, 750 species of trees, 400 species of birds, and 150 species of butterflies.
- Deforestation rates have reached shocking rates. Every minute, forests the equivalent of 20 football fields are cut down. Check out this counter, where you can check all kinds of deforestations statistics in real time. It shows that every year, 130,000 square kilometers of forests are either burned or cut down. That’s three times the size of Denmark or a football field every 1.4 seconds.
Why are Rainforests Important?
All kinds of forests – pine, evergreen coniferous, montane or sub-tropical – are vital to sustaining life on Earth. However, rainforests are particularly important, and here is why.
- Rainforests help regulate weather and temperature patterns on Earth. Did you know that the Amazonian rainforest is responsible for producing around 20 percent of our oxygen?
- That’s not all they’re good for: They also provide homes to a lot of flora and fauna. More than 30 million species of plants and animals live in rainforests. When we cut down the forests, they are all vulnerable to extinction.
- At the same time, rainforests are also homes to indigenous people. Did you know that more than 50 million tribal people live in the world’s rainforests?
- Over 25 percent of our medicines originate in rainforest plants. Seeing that we have only explored 1 percent of all the plants, it boggles the mind to image all the diseases we could cure with the 99 percent we have yet to explore.
- Rainforests soak up immense amounts of rainfall. The forest floors filter the rainwater, which then ends up in rivers, lakes, and irrigation systems.
- They also help prevent natural disasters, such as severe soil erosion. Without rainforests, the soil washes away, creating blockages that cause floods.
- Forests also play a major role in sinking the greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming. Fewer forests means a larger release of GHG gases in the atmosphere.
Why We Have to Stop
- The quickest and easiest solution to deforestation is to just stop cutting down trees. Even though deforestation facts show rates going down, economic realities make the complete halt of tree felling an unlikely event.
- However, if we don’t stop deforestation, half of our animal and plant species will soon be extinct. This, in turn, causes an imbalance in the entire forest ecosystem, affecting human populations, as well.
- As one of the oldest ecosystems on Earth, rainforests are impossible to replace. We could never replenish the forests fast enough to cope with the current rate of deforestation.
- Felling trees deprives the forest of large portions of its canopy, which serves as sun blocker during the day and heat container during the night. This disruption is the main cause of extreme temperatures swings that harm the plants and animals living in the rainforest.
- According to Rainforest Action Network (RAN), the U.S. is home to less than 5 percent of the entire world population. Yet, it consumes over 30 percent of the world’s paper, most of which never gets recycled.
- Trees not only absorb harmful carbon dioxide, but also provide us with the oxygen needed to breathe.
- In the Amazon, the critical loss of rainforest could trigger further dieback. The forest could end up enforcing self-destruction.
Global Forest Watch has launched a project that aims to counteract deforestation through awareness. Through crowdsourcing, satellite technology, and open data, the organization detects and alert others of deforestation.