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Tropical rainforests - causes and effects of deforestation, and possible alternatives to current practices.

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Mercedes Benz Biology 100 Matt Carling Section 5 26 October 1998 TROPICAL RAINFORESTS: CAUSES AND EFFECTS OF DEFORESTATION, AND POSSIBLE ALTERNATIVES TO CURRENT PRACTICES Tropical rainforests are the most alive places on earth. Covering less than 12% of the land's surface, the rainforests are home to more than half of all living species (Lewis, 4). 90% of all non-primates reside in tropical rainforests. Two-thirds of known plants, 40% birds of prey, and 80% of all insects are found only in tropical rainforests. Of the 2.5 to 5 million animals species thought to exist, only about one-half have been identified to date. The vast majority of rainforests are found in Brazil (Amazon), South Asia, Africa, and Central America. (WRM, 16). The two main types of rainforest are equatorial rainforests and tropical rainforests. Equatorial rainforests make up about two-thirds of all rainforests, and is found bordering the equator in Brazil, Zaire, and Southeast Asia. The temperature and the rainfall in equatorial rainforests are the same year-round. Tropical rainforests, on the other hand, are found north and south of the equatorial rainforests, and they have definite wet and dry seasons. (http://www.waste.org/...). Rainforests are named so because of the rain they create within themselves. From morning to noon, as the sun heats the forests, the trees transpire hundreds of liters of water. This water forms large cumulonimbus clouds which start raining by 2 or 3 o'clock in the afternoon. Most of the rainfall stays on leaves of the tallest trees, in the canopy. The next day, this water evaporates to fall again as rain. ...read more.


Ecological destruction caused by cattle ranching, therefore, is often long-term and irreversible. Within a few years, the former rainforest soil becomes exhausted and it washes away. Ranchers are then forced to move to previously undisturbed tracts of forests. (WRM, 43-46). In the Brazilian Amazon, real estate speculation is a major cause of deforestation. A centuries-old practice there is to grant the right of possession to whoever deforests a piece of land. These rights of possessions are soon full rights of ownership. The only thing people have to do to claim land is show that they are using it, and the easiest way for them to do this is by clearing it. (Fearnside, 216). The amount of tropical rainforests which have been lost to dams is alarmingly high. As developing nations seek to 'hydro-industrialize,' the forest becomes increasingly threatened. So far, the reservoirs of large dams worldwide have submerged a land area the size of Italy. Eventually, dams will have flooded about 2,346 kilometers of forest. (WRM,47). The social and ecological effects of the building of dams have been severe. In India, between 1950 and 1975, for example, 479,000 hectares of land was flooded. In Brazil, the Tucurai Dam flooded 271,000 hectares of rainforest. More dams in Central and South America continue to fill up and destroy thousands of acres of virgin forest. (WRM, 47). Mining and industrial development continue to cause more deforestation and ecological degradation. They also aid in social impoverishment of the local inhabitants. Clashes between indigenous people and miners are common occurrences. One example is the Grande Carajas Project in Brazil. Carajas is the site of the world's largest deposit of high-grade iron ore. ...read more.


In theory, individual countries can choose to leave their forests untouched. However, few, if any, have the luxury to do so. The previously forested land can be transformed to provide jobs, homes, and food for many people. (Scott, 35). However, according to Margaret Scott, conservative logging can be practiced. Tropical forests theoretically can be selectively logged with only the largest trees extracted, and the forest can be left fallow for a time to allow it to regenerate so it can be logged again. "If logged properly, a production forest retains most of the diversity of its plants and wildlife. It also continues to act as a buffer against erosion and climatic change (35)." Bob Holmes suggests other alternative ways of logging. He says loggers should first draw an inventory of the specific chosen location and the species of trees they plan to cut. Skidder (bulldozer) trails should be planned out in advance. They should cut vines from selected trees and allow them to wither to prevent unnecessary secondary damage, and they should focus on selectively killing undesired trees. According to a study done by Chris Uhl of Pennsylvania State University, these practices produced better results: Vine cutting reduced the number of damaged trees by 30%, and careful mapping of skidder trails reduced the affected area by 25%. (Holmes, 41). A fundamental problem of deforestation is that the groups of people who profit from deforestation are not the same people who pay for the resulting environmental, social and financial costs. The majority of the problems are left behind for future generations to deal with, while deforestation causes immediate profits and meets the basic needs of many people today. ...read more.

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