Posted by: PARTHA DAS SHARMA | September 9, 2008

Deforestation for food and fuel – A devastating consequence of overpopulation

Deforestation for food and fuel – A devastating consequence of overpopulation – to be checked immediately:

A. Tropical rainforests are incredibly rich ecosystems that play a fundamental role in the basic functioning of the planet. Rainforests are home to probably 50 percent of the world’s species, making them an extensive library of biological and genetic resources. In addition, rainforests help maintain the climate by regulating atmospheric gases and stabilizing rainfall, protect against desertification, and provide numerous other ecological functions. These precious systems are among the most threatened on the planet because of unchecked population growth and rising demand. As per the rough estimate, each day at least 80,000 acres (32,300 ha) of forest disappear from Earth.

B. Rising demand for food, biofuels, wood for paper, building and industry made forest cover worldwide most vulnerable. The result of it is more deforestation, more conflict, more carbon emissions, more climate change and less prosperity for everyone. Growth in population, especially in developing countries, is the major culprit for irresponsible deforestation, degradation of global environment and climate change.

C. Demand for land worldwide to grow more food, fuel crops for future energy security and wood is set to outstrip supply, leading to the probable destruction of forests. Tropical forests in Asia, Africa and South America are at most vulnerable position as growth in population in developing countries in those continents is quite large.

D. Many reports suggests that, because of the rising demand for food and biofuel, by another two decades, more than 500 million hectares of extra land will be needed worldwide for growing crops and trees; but only 200 million hectares will be available without dipping into tropical forests. Thus, tropical forest areas are bound to be affected extensively in next couple of decades. Analysis of figures from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) shows that tropical deforestation rates increased 8.5 percent from 2000-2005 when compared with the 1990s, while loss of primary forests may have expanded by 25 percent over the same period.

E. Some of the studies also suggest that, if the current level in agricultural yield continues, the amount of additional agricultural land required just to meet the world’s projected food demand in 2050 would be about three billion hectares and nearly all would be required in developing countries. In such a scenario, tropical forest areas in developing countries would be destroyed, without repair, almost completely. However, some academics place their hopes in agricultural technologies including genetic engineering to boost crop yields.

pds_forest_destructionF. In fact, forests affect climate in three different ways:

(i) They absorb the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and help to keep the planet cool;

(ii) They evaporate water to the atmosphere and increase cloudiness, which also helps keep the planet cool; and

(iii) They are dark and absorb a lot of sunlight, warming the Earth. Climate change mitigation strategies that promote planting trees have taken only the first effect into account.

G. The main area of concern is, since the spectacular success of the expected green revolution is, so far, quite slow. In some areas, yields are falling – a trend, which is most likely to be, intensified by climate change due to global warming. Moreover, eating into tropical forests to create extra agricultural land would, in turn, deepen climate change. Further, greenhouse gases may also rise because of extensive deforestation. As these forests fall, more carbon is added to the atmosphere, climactic conditions are further altered, and more topsoil is lost to erosion.

H. Adverse impacts on the environment by deforestation are –

(a) Generally, the removal or destruction of significant areas of forest cover has resulted in a degraded environment with reduced biodiversity. In many countries, massive deforestation is ongoing and is shaping climate and geography.

(b) Deforestation, to be precise, responsible for Global warming.

(c) Deforestation affects the amount of water in the soil and groundwater and the moisture in the atmosphere. Forests support considerable biodiversity, providing valuable habitat for wildlife.

(d) Moreover, forests foster medicinal conservation and the recharge of aquifers.

(e) Deforested areas become sources of surface water runoff, which moves much faster than subsurface flows. That quicker transport of surface water can translate into flash flooding and more localized floods than would occur with the forest cover.

(f) Long-term gains can be obtained by managing forest lands sustainable to maintain both forest cover and provide a biodegradable renewable resource.

(g) Forests are important stores of organic carbon, and forests can extract carbon dioxide and pollutants from the air, thus contributing to biosphere stability and probably relevant to the greenhouse effect.

(h) Forests are also valued for their aesthetic beauty and as a cultural resource and tourist attraction.


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