Turn Deforestation Into Reforestation
Deforestation— cutting down, burning, and otherwise destroying forests — is occurring at a rapid pace. Only 2.6 million square miles of the original 6 million of tropical rainforest still remain in the world, and at the current rate, we are losing 5 to 10 percent of the species in those miles per decade. During the past few decades, most of the deforestation has occurred in tropical regions, and the pace of tree loss is not slowing. Currently, we are losing our tropical forests in Latin America and in Asia at a rate of about 2% per year, and in Africa, the rate is about 0.8% yearly. By the end of the century, most of the forests in parts of Brazil and in Bangladesh, India, the Philippines, and Sri Lanka could be nothing but a memory.
Deforestation threatens the existence of every living thing on the planet. The world's tropical rainforests as well as the dry forests are extremely valuable ecosystems that contain more than 60 percent of the world’s plant and animal life. On a planetary scale, forests help prevent an increase in global warming by serving as carbon sinks—areas that trap and store carbon dioxide. Trees absorb the gas from the air and then replenish the air with oxygen. The more trees we have, the better the air.
Preventing deforestation is also critical because forests help protect coastal regions, control avalanches and desertification, stabilize sand dunes, and prevent soil erosion and degradation. And for millions of people around the world, deforestation threatens their survival, as forests are their home and their source of food, medicine, and energy, as well as their spiritual and cultural identity.
Deforestation is practiced to make way for cattle raising and agriculture, especially in the tropical rainforests of South America and Southeast Asia, but also in parts of western Europe and North America. Deforested land often falls prey to unsustainable agricultural practices, which then fuels the need to clear even more trees for more land. Costa Rica is an example of such forest destruction. In the Brazilian Amazon, nearly 80 percent of deforestation is the result of cattle ranching.
Widespread logging is the cause of deforestation in many regions. Global desire for teakwood furniture, for example, is causing the destruction of the last of the teakwood forests, which are in Indonesia, home to one-tenth of the world's tropical forests. Other causes of deforestation include urbanization, mining, shrimp farming, palm oil production, and oil exploration, while acid rain and fire also contribute to forest destruction.
Deforestation has not gone unnoticed, as many governmental and nongovernmental agencies around the world are attempting to reduce and reverse the destruction by engaging in reforestation — the restoration of deforested regions by planting seeds and/or saplings. And they need your help.
I Did This!
Be prepared to get your hands dirty when you volunteer with any of the life-renewing reforestation projects that are underway around the globe. Some of them are listed below and could use your hands today.
On your next vacation, you could help restore our rapidly disappearing forests and give the planet what it needs — a breath of fresh air and a chance for a future.
Make a Difference
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