Quantcast

CONSEQUENCES OF DEFORESTATION

By Rhett Butler   |  Last updated July 22, 2012
Rainforests around the world still continue to fall. Does it really make a difference? Why should anyone care if some plants, animals, mushrooms, and microorganisms perish? Rainforests are often hot and humid, difficult to reach, insect-ridden, and have elusive wildlife.

Actually the concern should not be about losing a few plants and animals; mankind stands to lose much more. By destroying the tropical forests, we risk our own quality of life, gamble with the stability of climate and local weather, threaten the existence of other species, and undermine the valuable services provided by biological diversity.

While in most areas environmental degradation has yet to reach a crisis level where entire systems are collapsing, it is important to examine some of the effects of existing environmental impoverishment and to forecast some of the potential repercussions of forest loss. Continuing loss of natural systems could make human activities increasingly vulnerable to ecological surprises in the future.

The most immediate impact of deforestation occurs at the local level with the loss of ecological services provided by tropical rainforests and related ecosystems. Such habitats afford humans valuable services such as erosion prevention, flood control, water filtration, fisheries protection, and pollination—functions that are particularly important to the world's poorest people, who rely on natural resources for their everyday survival. Forest loss also reduces the availability of renewable resources like timber, medicinal plants, nuts and fruit, and game.

Over the longer term, deforestation of tropical rainforests can have a broader impact, affecting global climate and biodiversity. These changes are more challenging to observe and forecast from local effects, since they take place over a longer time scale and can be difficult to measure.

Extreme Deforestation - Easter Island



Aerial view of deforestation in eastern Madagascar
Aerial view of deforestation in eastern Madagascar. Click image for more pictures of deforestation. (Photo by R. Butler)



Review questions:

  • Why are rainforests important?
  • Why should rainforests be protected?

Other versions of this page

spanish | french | portuguese | chinese | japanese



Continued / Next: Local Impact of Deforestation