Deforestation: definition, causes and consequences

deforestation

An important challenge of the 21st century, deforestation is one of the main causes of biodiversity loss and climate change. However, forests are indispensable for the planet. How can we protect them and reach the goal of zero deforestation?

What is deforestation?

Deforestation is a phenomenon of reduction of the forest area . It is caused by multiple factors, both natural and human, and has irreversible consequences on the environment.

The causes of deforestation

Natural factors include:

  • Forest fires that, in addition to destroying forests and biodiversity, release huge amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere;
  • Diseases that affect trees;
  • Parasites .

However, it is not surprising that human activities (agriculture, infrastructure construction, mining activities, urbanization...) are the main responsible for deforestation throughout the world with uncontrolled felling of trees. The development of agricultural land is the main cause of deforestation. The world population continues to grow, and humans need more and more space to provide themselves with food resources.

According to the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations) Global Forest Resources Assessment 2020 , 420 million hectares of forest have been lost worldwide due to deforestation since 1990. However, deforestation has decreased considerably in the last five years, with an estimate of 10 million hectares for the 2015-2020 period (that is, an area greater than all of Andalusia), compared to 12 million hectares in 2010-2015. .

Deforestation: consequences

Forests play a dual role for the planet: they are both " lungs of the Earth " and reservoirs of biodiversity . Being natural carbon sinks, they mitigate the negative effects of global warming by capturing and storing CO2 in the atmosphere and serve as a natural habitat for thousands of animal and plant species.

The three main consequences of deforestation are:

  • Biodiversity Loss – As forests are the natural habitat of many species, their destruction has a direct impact on the survival of global biodiversity;
  • Soil degradation : forests make soils richer in organic matter and therefore more resistant to weathering and erosion.
  • Global warming : trees absorb CO2 throughout their lives and thus mitigate the greenhouse effect .

deforestation in the world

Deforestation is a global phenomenon . Every year, millions of hectares of forests disappear to become oil palm plantations, cattle pastures, soybean crops, etc.