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Destruction of Amazonian Rainforest and its effect on the environment

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Introduction

Destruction of Amazonian Rainforest This area of the Amazon rain forest has been cleared by burning, following which a ground cover of small plants grew quickly, but could not prevent the rapid erosion of the soil by rain water, the signs of which can be seen in the channels leading down to the central gully. The fast erosion of already nutrient-poor soil makes regeneration of the forest an even more precarious prospect. Anne LaBastille/Bruce Coleman Inc Deforestation, the large-scale removal of forest, prior to its replacement by other land uses. It is proceeding at about 17 million hectares each year (170,000 sq km or 65,000 sq mi, an area larger than England, Wales, and Northern Ireland combined). Between 1980 and 1990, annual deforestation rates were 1.2 per cent in Asia and the Pacific, 0.8 per cent in Latin America, and 0.7 per cent in Africa. Forest area is generally stable in Europe and North America, although the rate of transition from old-growth forest to other forms in North America is controversially high. Deforestation may be distinguished from forest degradation, which is a reduction in forest quality. The two are linked, and result in several problems. They cause soil erosion and watershed destabilization, resulting in flooding or drought. They reduce biodiversity (the range of habitat, species, and genetic types), particularly significant in tropical forests which are home to much of the world's biodiversity. ...read more.

Middle

In the northern coniferous forests and temperate rain forests of British Columbia, where about 2,200 sq km (850 sq mi) of timber is harvested annually (approaching 1 per cent of the total commercially viable forest in the province), logging companies have been required since 1987 to replant all cleared land within five years; efforts are also made to retain the original diversity of tree species, although the animal and secondary plant ecosystems are necessarily affected. As replanting in British Columbia has only been undertaken on a serious scale since the mid-1960s, it is claimed by the provincial government that the cutting of old-growth forest will continue to be necessary for at least another 50 years, until second-growth plantings are sufficiently mature to replace them. This situation, broadly reproduced elsewhere in North America and Europe, means that the area of forest remains largely stable, although the proportion represented by old-growth is continually diminishing. Widespread concern at the loss of old-growth forests has led to many confrontations, such as at Clayoquot Sound on Vancouver Island in 1993, when more than 700 demonstrators were arrested while trying to prevent the cutting of timber in virgin stands of temperate rain forest. Clearance for grazing was a major cause of deforestation in the 1970s and 1980s in Brazilian and Central American forests, with government-sponsored schemes to create large ranches. Regular woodland burning to maintain pasture is common in dryland Africa. ...read more.

Conclusion

Sean Morris/Oxford Scientific Films2 Deforestation for Timber Harvesting This Costa Rican stream valley has been deforested for its timber, much of which is logged commercially for export. Since there is no longer a good root system to anchor the topsoil, it begins to erode. If the cycle continues, the area may eventually resemble a desert. S.E. Cornelius/Photo Researchers, Inc.3 Clearance for Settled Agriculture This plantation of rubber trees in Ghana has been established on land that was formerly occupied by virgin forest. Although these are healthy trees which preserve the integrity of the soil, the diversity of animal and plant species that the area previously supported is inevitably reduced. Robert Harding Picture Library4 Clearance for Forest Plantations Clear-cutting is a forestry technique in which all the trees in a given area are removed. The advantages of this technique (providing the clear-cut area is replanted) include the eventual production of trees of approximately the same age and height, which are easy to harvest using mechanized equipment. The disadvantages include the elimination of old growth forest and animal habitat, excessive erosion, and an unattractive landscape. Mike Birkhead/Oxford Scientific Films5 1"Deforestation," Microsoft(r) Encarta(r) 97 Encyclopedia. (c) 1993-1996 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved. 2"Slash and Burn Deforestation," Microsoft(r) Encarta(r) 97 Encyclopedia. (c) 1993-1996 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved. 3"Deforestation for Timber Harvesting," Microsoft(r) Encarta(r) 97 Encyclopedia. (c) 1993-1996 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved. 4"Clearance for Settled Agriculture," Microsoft(r) Encarta(r) 97 Encyclopedia. (c) 1993-1996 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved. 5"Clearance for Forest Plantations," Microsoft(r) Encarta(r) 97 Encyclopedia. (c) 1993-1996 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved. ...read more.

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