This AS Geography Report explores deforestation.

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AS Geography


Written & Edited By

Ben Arrigoni


February/March 2003


This AS Geography Report explores deforestation. Why does deforestation occur? What areas of the world suffer from deforestation? What are the main reasons? Why is deforestation a cause of conflict between many groups of people? These questions and more are answered in this report.

Deforestation is the removal of large areas of forest in order to use the space for other purposes, such as development and crop growing. There has been dramatic deforestation across the world as a whole. Around 35-40% of the original forest has been removed by felling, grazing or burning. The vegetation we replace it with is often smaller and less species rich, this has caused the overall biomass of the Earth to fall.

Which areas of the world have suffered from deforestation?

Before the beginning of the twentieth century the greatest impact of deforestation was in temperate climates, such as the Mediterranean and Asia. Deforestation rates are much higher today, and the location of deforestation has change too. Today’s tree fellers are more commonly seen in South America and Indonesia.

Map (South America > Brazil, Peru)                   Map (Indonesia > Borneo, Sumatra)

Other areas do suffer from deforestation, just not on the scale that South America and Indonesia do. The Mediterranean for example still suffers deforestation; its coniferous trees are widely used as a resource for industry.

What are the main reasons for deforestation?

There are several reasons why mankind chooses to deforest areas of land, the main reason usually being to develop the land (eg – building, agricultural). There are other reasons however, these are bulleted below.

  • Extraction of the timber as a resource for industry and exporting.
  • Creation of new land for residential, industrial and transport uses such as the Trans-Amazonia Highway in Brazil.
  • Extension of agricultural land to feed and house an increasing population (eg – the transmigration programme in Indonesia).
  • The mining of minerals (eg – the Carajas project in the Amazon Basin).
  • The creation of dams for the generation of HEP “Hydro-Energy Power” (eg – the Itaipu project on the border between Brazil and Paraguay).
  • Attempts to reduce third world debt by encouraging inward investment by multi-nationals (eg – the hamburger ranches, coffee and rubber plantations).
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Looking more specifically at Indonesia, below is a table showing the causes of deforestation in this area. The table has been divided into two sections, socio-economic and political.

Less Economically Developed Country (LEDC) Deforestation Case Study

Chosen Country = The Amazon, Brazil

What is the extent of deforestation in Brazil?

The deforestation of The Amazon Rainforest increased in the year 2000 by 15% on the previous year. Around 19,836sq km (7,935sq miles) of rain forest were cut down between August 1999 and August 2000, compared with 17,259sq km over the same time during 1998/1999.


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