Worldwide, our forests cover about 31% of the Earth’s land surface. Of this, 36% are primary forests, which have taken hundreds of years to grow and cannot be replaced in our lifetime. Only about 5% of our planet’s land cover is rainforest, roughly equivalent to the size of Australia. That may seem like a lot, but our rainforests are being destroyed at the rate of over 80,000 acres (32,000 hectares) per day!
11 ways in which our forests are being destroyed
The United Nations declared 2011 International Year of Forests. Therefore, we'd like to share with you 11 ways in which our forests are being destroyed.
1. In 2008, deforestation in Bolivia advanced at a rate of 280,000 hectares per year. This means forest is being destroyed at a rate equivalent to 43 soccer fields per hour.
2. Logging for tropical hardwoods, the paper industry, charcoal, and fuel wood
: Little if any industrial logging of tropical forests is sustainable. The International Tropical Timber Organisation (ITTO), the body established to regulate the international trade in tropical timber, found in 1988 that the amount of sustainable logging was "on a world scale, negligible".
3. Cattle ranching and grazing
: To graze one steer in Amazonia takes two full acres. Rains come and wash away the thin topsoil that was previously protected by the canopy, and this barren, infertile land is vulnerable to erosion. Soon the lack of nutrients in the soil and overgrazing degrade them, and they are abandoned for newly cleared land.
4. Expansion of the agricultural frontier
: The World Bank says that less than ten percent of existing rainforests grow in soils good for agriculture. Huge areas of tropical soils are composed of nitrogen-poor silica, the fossil sands of ancient oceans. In other rainforests silica dissolves out of the underlying rocks, and alumina, iron oxide, and magnesia accumulate, yielding the typical tropical "laterite" soils infused with the bright reds and yellows, and, while containing adequate nitrogen, they don't have much calcium, phosphorus, or potassium. Rainforest plants draw their nutrients not from these pitiful soils, but rather from themselves - by penetrating directly into rotting logs. When the forest is cleared by peasants, torrential rains quickly leach away what nutrients there are, often creating gullied badlands.
5. Human-caused forest fires
: Bolivia has seen its number of fires more than triple from 2,892 to 8,841. Most of these fires are not naturally occurring.
They are the result of slash-and-burn clearing techniques used by farmers and ranchers to clear land for agriculture and pasturing, who lose control of the fires.
6. The illegal exotic animal trade
: not all forest destruction is by deforestation. After habitat loss, animal smuggling is the biggest reason why the world's wildlife is in danger of extinction. A third of the world's wildlife is facing extinction and it is these endangered species that bring high prices on the black market in rare animals. Animal smuggling today is second only to drug smuggling as a major international illegal business. The animals are generally purchased from poor natives who, knowing nothing about the endangered status of such animals, sell them at throw-away prices. A rare toucan purchased in Bolivia for $10, for instance, is worth $1,500 in the United States.
7. Colonization and trans-migration schemes
: Governments and international aid agencies for a time believed that by encouraging colonisation and trans-migration schemes into rainforest areas, they could alleviate some of the poverty felt by the people of the financially poorer countries. It has since become increasingly obvious that such schemes have failed, hurting the indigenous people and the environment… The World Bank estimates that for every colonist resettled under the official transmigration project, two or more unofficially move into the forest due to the drawing effect of the program.
8. Dams and hydroelectric projects
: Currently five nations (Brazil, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru) are planning over 146 big dams in the Amazon Basin. Some of these dams would flood pristine rainforests, others threaten indigenous people, and all would change the Amazonian ecosystem.
9. Legal and illegal mining operations
: Mining and industrial development lead to direct forest loss due to the clearing of land to establish projects. Indigenous people are displaced. Roads are constructed through previously inaccessible land, opening up the rainforest. Severe water, air and land pollution occurs from mining and industry.
10. The oil and gas industry
: Oil and gas extraction can result in direct deforestation as well as contamination of waterways and lands with oil and drilling byproducts… oil and gas development is often accompanied by road-building which provides access to previously remote areas and facilitates deforestation, colonization, and illegal logging, mining, and hunting.
11. Climate change and temperature extremes
: Climate change could cut premontane forests in Bolivia in half. Bolivia has experienced recent fish kills in rivers due to extreme cold temperatures, in which millions of fish and other wildlife perished.