Humans have indulged in deforestation since ancient times, but the deforestation at that time was localized to a specific area, and it was relatively smaller in scale. However, as man has progressed, his dependence for land and wood has increased as a result of which rampant deforestation has taken place in most parts of the world. Tropical areas have been hardest hit by deforestation and the situation is so grim today that many animals of these areas are on the verge of extinction. There are several factors that have contributed to tropical deforestation and these causes are inter-related.
Tropical Deforestation : A Few Causes
Man depends upon land for a variety of purposes, chief among them being the use of land in agriculture. Traditionally, forests have been cleared so that the available land can be used for agriculture. This trend continues today as well as there is an increased pressure on the availability of land that is suitable for agriculture. The increase in the global population has put added pressure on the governments around the world to meet the mounting demands for food and other resources. Tropical forests have been cleared up in huge numbers because of commercial agriculture as well. Countries which rely heavily on export of agricultural products for their revenues carry out deforestation in order to meet the international demand.
This is one of the major contributors to tropical deforestation, and in fact, it would not be wrong to say that infrastructure development leads to several other factors that cause deforestation. To ensure that remote areas are accessible, and to make it easier to transport goods from one place to another, countries clear tropical forests which pave way for a highway or a railway line. Most countries with tropical forests are under huge international debts and this had led to enormous pressure on their available natural resources. Tropical forests have also been cut down for construction purposes. Various tropical forests are close to areas where water can be stored for generation of electricity. The construction activities in these areas have also led to a widespread deforestation.
There is a global demand for wood and large-scale logging, both legal and illegal have contributed in clearing forests in tropical regions. Vast areas of tropical forests have been cleared to use wood in domestic purposes. We rely on fossil fuels to a large extent, which encourages commercial logging, which in turn leads to deforestation on a large-scale. This problem is grave in Africa, where there are no measures in place to check illegal logging.
These were some of the prime reasons that lead to deforestation. As we mentioned before, these factors are not mutually exclusive and each one of them contributes to the other. A road which is built to gain access to a remote area can make it easier for migrating populations to clear forests for land and agriculture. The effects of tropical deforestation can be far-reaching. Studies have linked climate change to deforestation as trees help in regulating the temperature in the atmosphere. Apart from climate change, tropical deforestation also interferes with the hydrological cycle, which has an impact on the quality of soil. The tropical forests act as a shield for the underlying soil and plants as it protects them from heavy rains and hailstorms. It has also been found that tropical deforestation has also led to the loss of transpiration as a result of which tropical areas have long dry spells.
Several governments over the years have justified tropical deforestation as one of the ways to tackle poverty and to generate revenue for the country, but it is important that we think about the damage that this activity can cause to our future generations. Effective policies and laws can help in the fight against tropical deforestation.