Sample Environmental Studies Paper on Impacts of deforestation of Amazon forest

Introduction

Forests play crucial roles in the ecological system. Some of the vital functions of forests include providing homes to animal and plant species, providing medicine and food to people locally and globally, and controlling global climate change. Among the enormous benefits of forests, these are the cornerstones of the ecological powerhouse. Apart from being home to hundreds of plant and animal species, the Amazon forest is among the significant forests that recycle carbon dioxide and provide oxygen to the planet. Despite the known contribution of forests to the environment, there is an increasing rate of deforestation. Statistically, approximately fifty-eight thousand square miles of forest are lost to illegal deforestation.

Amazon rainforest is an essential element in the climate system as it affects the regional and global weather, carbon cycle, and climate. Deforestation causes significant alterations to water and energy balances through minimized surface roughness and turbulent transport, maximized surface albedo, minimal latent heat fluxes, changes in carbon dioxide emission, and change in water transpiration in the atmosphere, and trace gases (Vergopolan and Fisher). Through these alterations, deforestation can cause regional and global changes in rainfall and temperature. This essay seeks to discuss factors causing degradation and their effects on the forest health and the environment (Bennett).

Purpose of the study and thesis 

The impact of deforestation in the Amazonian rainforest on the global and regional ecological cycle is crucial. This research aims to provide an insight into the importance and contribution of the Amazon rainforest to the environment. The study also looks at some of the causes of deforestation, such as logging, agriculture and housing, and government policies. Further, the research study seeks to analyze the impact of deforestation resulting from the mentioned causes.

Significance of the study 

The amazon rainforest is among the forests vulnerable to and threatened by deforestation. The forest covers 670 million hectares spanning across more than eight countries. Of the total land coverage, 17 million hectares of the rainforest has been lost to deforestation. If deforestation in the Amazonian rainforest continues at a constant rate, thirty-five percent of the forest could be lost by 2030. This loss will significantly affect the animal and plant species, weather patterns, natural beauty, and life quality at the regional and global levels. This essay aims to widen the readers’ understanding and appeal to those who ignore environmental policies to join the fight to preserve the environment.

Causes of deforestation and their impacts 

Excessive logging 

There is a variety of logging. The most harmful one is when a forest area is wholly cut, leaving no trees. This form of logging is called precise cutting. Logging in Brazil has been ongoing for centuries. However, timber harvest did not flourish until the 1950s, when plywood’s export prices along the Amazon River boomed. Logging in the 1970s became a crucial step in the development frontier following the expansion of roads and increased human settlements. Illegal logging in the Brazilian Amazon is facilitated by the high demand for timber, which increases deforestation in the rainforest.

There are laws permitting logging in selected areas in the Amazon rainforest. Despite these regulatory laws, illegal and excessive logging in the Brazilian Amazon is widespread. Previous reports show that most of the companies that caused eighty percent of unlawful logging had broken the law. Controlling logging in some areas in Brazil may be difficult due to the remote operation of the activity. Illegal logging is characterized by different factors, including forging clearance documents, cutting more than the authorized number of trees, cutting outside the permitted areas, and cutting commercially valuable trees even if it is legally protected (Arima et al.).

Excessive logging reduces habitat for birds and other animal and plant species. For instance, birds such as owls often build their nests on older trees with a relatively larger diameter. In this scenario, cutting the older trees destroys the bird’s nesting habitat (Santos de Lima et al.). Logging along river banks increases the risk of flooding and soil erosions. Clear cutting is the most dangerous form of logging, eliminates animal and plant species habitat (Arima et al.).

Additionally, logging affects the climate change by altering the emission of carbon dioxide in the air. Trees store carbon dioxide within their tissues. Therefore, excessive logging messes with the balance of carbon dioxide emission in the atmosphere. Moreover, studies have shown that there is a strong positive correlation between forest fires and deforestation (Repetto).

Apart from affecting the plant and animal habitat, logging also affects biodiversity and the forest health. Logging alters the biodiversity of the forest by removing commercially valuable trees. According to a study conducted to find the impact of logging on the forest health, it was discovered that controlled logging could improve forest health. However, excessive logging caused a significant decrease in the mycorrhizal fungi that allow trees to send signals to other trees. The loss of the fungi causes a notable decline in the forest biodiversity (Arima et al.). Once a large habitat area has been eliminated, it may be impossible for the inhabiting species to recover. Endemic species are the most vulnerable to extinction, and they are mostly found in the tropical rainforests.

Government policies that encourage deforestation 

Among factors that facilitate deforestation is forested land for cattle ranching and agriculture and inefficient commercial logging operations. Previous studies indicate that these activities are often done following government policies. Many of these implemented policies are due to economic pressures resulting from debts. Most countries covered by the Amazonian rainforest do not have a defined value for the commercially valuable trees, allowing the taxes to flow to the timber concessionaires who often sell them in foreign countries (Binswanger).

Inefficient government policies that protect the forest are often encouraged by misguided agricultural policies. Most countries covered by the Amazonian rainforest promote the conversion of forest land for other uses. For instance, in Brazil, individuals have been rewarded the ownership rights and occupancy rights when the land is cleared. Such ownership methods always encourage the privatization of land from the public land. Those who gain the ownership rights eventually sell the land to major capitalist companies, which then improve the land by clearing the forest area to establish speculative holdings and ranches.

Agricultural policies indirectly aid in deforestation (Binswanger). In Brazil, the aggregation of the more fertile land into vast underused estates forces the increasing rural population into forested land frontiers and upper watersheds. The over-concentration of property holdings is abetted by relatively lower agricultural taxes that make ranches and farms a more attractive business investment for individuals in the urban areas with higher income. Moreover, existing urban-rural program subsidies encourage land concentration. Population growth in forested areas is higher than the national growth rate. Despite these rates, the government has failed to control the population growth rate in the forested areas (Binswanger).

Human activities 

Deforestation can happen instantly in scenarios where the land is cleared for settlement or agricultural purposes, or it can occur over time due to continuous forest land degradation due to climate changes resulting from human activities. The significant factors causing continued degradation include agriculture, mining, unsustainable forest land management, increased fire incidence, and infrastructure projects (Repetto).

Every year, the possibility of forest fire is increased due to degradation. Fires are part of natural occurrences; however, degraded land forests are more vulnerable to fire breakouts. This vulnerability results from forests sitting on peat soils, excessive logging, or where fires have been suppressed for years enabling the unnatural aggregation of vegetation that facilities the fire to burn more intensely (Santos de Lima et al.). Fires cause the forest to reduce biodiversity, alter the composition of gases in the atmosphere, thus tampering with the ecological cycle. Moreover, climate changes due to land degrading activities are potentially harmful to the forest’s biodiversity (Bennett).

The effect of mining on forests is rising due to the increasing demand for minerals and their prices. Infrastructural constructions such as railway lines, roads, and power stations often accompany mining projects. These activities exert more pressure on the forest’s health and its ecosystem. Carajas Mineral Province, perhaps the world’s biggest copper reserve, fuels its iron plants using woods from the surrounding land forest, contributing to approximately 6000km2 of deforestation per year. Mining affects the region’s water drainage and pollutes water with wastes from the mine (Repetto).

Housing is another human activity that has adverse effects on the forest. Also known as urban sprawl, housing is one of the major contributors to deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon rainforest and perhaps the cause without a promising solution. The lack of a potential solution is mainly because urban sprawl occurs as a result of overpopulation. Concentration on land forces people to clear more forest land to establish their settlement areas. Often the method used is clear and burn, which may cause some of the endemic species to go extinct. Moreover, clearing forest areas also change the inhibiting patterns of animals in the area (Yale University).

Conclusion 

In conclusion, rainforests are at risk across the globe. The government should make significant alterations at the regional and global levels to mitigate deforestation’s impact on the environment. These methods should secure and protect the existence of endangered species and the success of environmentally and ecologically important forest areas. Even though recent studies indicate a rise in deforestation, there are many ways the government and the citizens use to fight against deforestation. For instance, efficient forest policies that control logging activities and other environment intensive initiatives might help restore the lost forest land and conserve the existing land.

Additionally, countries are increasingly understanding the relationship between land use and forests. Therefore, governments around the Amazon basin area are undertaking forest transition where economic growth results in forest recovery, urbanization, and less pressure on the existing land forests. This activity by the government may help mitigate the risks and effects of land degradation in the woods. However, the movement to reduce deforestation may not be easily achieved since some individuals will eventually go against the norm and engage in environmentally adverse activities such as illegal and excessive logging or accompanying heavy construction with the mining projects.

 

 

Works Cited

Arima, Eugenio Y., et al. “Loggers and Forest Fragmentation: Behavioral Models of Road Building in the Amazon Basin.” Annals of the Association of American Geographers, vol. 95, no. 3, Sept. 2014, pp. 525–541, 10.1111/j.1467-8306.2005.00473.x. Accessed 16 Nov. 2020.

Bennett, Lauren. Deforestation and Climate Change. 2017.

Binswanger, Hans P. “Brazilian Policies That Encourage Deforestation in the Amazon.” World Development, vol. 19, no. 7, July 2014, pp. 821–829, 10.1016/0305-750x(91)90135-5. Accessed 25 Sept. 2019.

Repetto, Robert. “Deforestation in the Tropics on JSTOR.” Www.Jstor.org, 2014, www.jstor.org/stable/24996711?casa_token=Mji3ZE4hPSgAAAAA%3AIJdCePZZCnubN4PykBGNMhD68Qb-riPG6FuYQIGDQOUP31ZXdrL1MnGVK8qgte0SpQjI0mf0AmUizvlXUa5lVqdz5WnvPE-XEm5jwqSIROhwME0h07w&seq=1#metadata_info_tab_contents. Accessed 25 Nov. 2020.

Santos de Lima, Letícia, et al. “Illegal Logging as a Disincentive to the Establishment of a Sustainable Forest Sector in the Amazon.” PLOS ONE, vol. 13, no. 12, 5 Dec. 2018, p. e0207855, 10.1371/journal.pone.0207855. Accessed 10 Aug. 2020.

Spracklen, D. V., and L. Garcia-Carreras. “The Impact of Amazonian Deforestation on Amazon Basin Rainfall.” Geophysical Research Letters, vol. 42, no. 21, 12 Nov. 2015, pp. 9546–9552, 10.1002/2015gl066063.

Vergopolan, Noemi, and Joshua B. Fisher. “The Impact of Deforestation on the Hydrological Cycle in Amazonia as Observed from Remote Sensing.” International Journal of Remote Sensing, vol. 37, no. 22, 10 Oct. 2016, pp. 5412–5430, 10.1080/01431161.2016.1232874. Accessed 15 May 2019.

Yale University. “Land Use and Agriculture in the Amazon | Global Forest Atlas.” 2012.