Year after year, thousands of square kilometers of forests are destroyed by human activities, especially by the advance of the agricultural frontier.
Each year around 150,000 square kilometers of forest are destroyed, or what is the same, 190 times the city of New York.
To date, 50% of the forests on planet earth have already been cut down and such deforestation is very serious, threatening the life of other plant and animal species and human beings by generating a climate imbalance.
How many trees are left? What are the causes of deforestation? Why should indiscriminate logging be stopped? What solutions are currently on the table? And most importantly, what solutions should be adopted and are not being applied for geopolitical or economic reasons?
Half of all the trees on the planet have already been cut down
Since the beginning of civilization, half of the trees that inhabited the planet have been lost. But global deforestation has accelerated in recent decades to the point that it endangers human existence and that of the planet.
15 billion trees are cut down each year. But to put this figure in context you have to know how many trees there are on the planet.
The journal Nature published a study in 2015 that provided the most accurate estimate to date. The study quantified that there were about 3 billion trees, at a rate of 422 per person.
According to the aforementioned study, the distribution of trees on the planet is not the same. At the extremes we find countries like Bolivia that has 5000 trees per person and at the other, Israel where there are only two.
It is clear that these inequalities are due to natural factors but the activity of man is added.
We find an example in the present-day Harrapan desert in Pakistan, once an area very rich in forests. The indiscriminate felling of trees caused a change in the climate and the cessation of the rain. This ended up killing the last forests. Today this area is a semi-desert, arid, incapable of maintaining the biodiversity of yesteryear.
If we continue at this rate of deforestation, in 300 years we will no longer have trees on the face of the earth. But before reaching this figure, many species, including ours, will have a very difficult survival.
With all this information, why are trees still being cut down?
It is complex to give an answer, since the arguments are various, especially of an economic and social nature. Unfortunately, felling of trees in some countries becomes indiscriminate and in the worst case, it is not legal.
Following the massive destruction of the forest are logging, agriculture and livestock.
In many cases, the wood of native trees is used and in others they are cut down to replace them with other species. In any case, the forests end up being converted into large fields for crops or food for livestock.
Other causes are added, such as urbanization, mining, oil and gas exploitation, hydroelectric plants, etc. All these activities are carried out on a large scale and drastically, which means that the forest can never recover again.
There is also damage to the rest of the biodiversity, to soils and water cycles.
Other factors also play a role, such as a vicious cycle in the deterioration of forests. Climate change itself, the result in part of the release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere by cutting down trees, causes extreme weather changes and catastrophes such as droughts, floods and fires.
At the social level, migration programs, wars, the privatization of communal lands or the fact that tropical forests are too poor to support conventional agriculture also have an impact on forests.
But perhaps the greatest cause of deforestation will come in the future at the hands of global climate change, one of the most devastating consequences of the disappearance of forests.
What are the consequences of mass deforestation?
The most dramatic impact of the decline in forest cover is the loss of habitat for millions of species, not just animals, but plants. 70% of the planet's animals and plants live in forested environments. Many cannot survive deforestation that destroys their environment.
At the local level it has more consequences: the increase in pests, the decrease in the pollination of crops, the erosion of the soils and the lack of water.
But if we look at the globality of the planet, deforestation has a negative effect that affects us all: climate change.
This is a vicious cycle that must be stopped. As the planet's temperature increases, forests will no longer be able to survive in their regions of origin. Trees could adapt and migrate to other regions, but this is a slow process that will not be possible at the accelerated rate of deforestation and the increase in temperature that is taking place.
But what can be done?
A first step in reducing forest loss would be to promote sustainable consumption. You should consume less, waste less, recycle more and respect more.
- Plant fast-growing trees that can be used in a few years as a source of forest products.
- Promote the reforestation of devastated areas. Not only as a measure for the elimination of CO2 but as a solution to the recovery of biodiversity.
- Implement the measures adopted in the Kyoto Protocol, in a real way and without cheating.
- Promote agroforestry systems that maintain certain species of trees in conjunction with agricultural land use.
- Reuse raw material already processed to avoid further felling of trees.
- Promote aid and training policies to the peasants to prevent their only resources from continuing to expand the agricultural frontier.
Everyone can do something about it. What will your action be?
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