What is Logging/Deforestation?
By definition of dictionary.com logging can be described as “The act of cutting down, trimming, and hauling the timber of (a piece of land).” Deforestation is, simply put, the complete clearance of forested land.
Farming in the Amazon
There are three types of farming methods used:
- “Slash and Burn” – the traditional method used by the natives in the rainforest. Although this method is most sustainable, it also causes significant areas to be cleared, even if only temporary, each year.
- Subsistence farming – an increasing popular method due to the government giving land to a percentage of Brazil’s 25 million landless people. In some places, 10 km pieces of land were cleared by major highways, and settlers migrated from places that were even poorer.
- Commercial cattle ranching – usually run by large transnational companies which sell beef usually to large fast-food chains in the developed world. These companies in fact burn the forest, and substitute the trees with grass later.
Brazil experienced a rapid population growth in the 1960’s which consequently meant that more land was needed for people to live on, more farmland to produce food for the extra numbers, more jobs required for people to earn their income and also more resources obtained if people’s standard of living was to better. Also at the same time there was a need to reduce Brazil’s huge national debt. The Amazonian rainforest, at the time, seemed a perfect solution as it was largely undeveloped and had the space and resources.
Also around 12, 000 km of new road has been constructed across the rainforest, the largest being a 5300 km stretch called the Trans-Amazonian highway (this plan was one of the most ambitious economic development programs ever devised, and one of the most spectacular failures). These roads were constructed in order to bring development to the region and to transport the timber, minerals, farm produce and the inhabitants. Also smaller highways have been constructed in the Amazon rainforest, along with several small airstrips.
The main types of resources found in the Amazon rainforest are:
- Timber – usually hardwoods, and obtained by logging companies which fell the trees for markets in MEDC’s. While this resource is a valuable source of income, little has been done to replant the deforested areas.
- Minerals – give the region a vast natural resource. Minerals include iron ore, bauxite, and manganese, diamond, gold and silver.
- Hydro electricity – an important renewable source of energy however the construction of dams and the creation of large reservoirs has caused much flooding.
Rate of forest destruction.
Studies vary as to how much of the Amazon rainforest has been deforested since clearances began in the 1960’s. The World Bank gives an estimate of 15%, however some environmental groups claim that the figure could be up to a scary 40%, which, if accurate would indicate that roughly 15 hectares (15 full size football pitches) are cleared every minute.
Consequences of logging/deforestation
- Of the 30 million species on the face of the earth, roughly 28 million can be found in the Amazon (99% of those being insect). A standard patch of 10 km2 could have as many as up to 1500 species of plant, 750 species of tree, 400 types of bird, 150 varieties of butterfly and 60 different types of amphibian. Many are still yet to be discovered. Deforestation destroys these habitats for many species, some of which may have great medical value.
- There is a great reduction in the population of Amerindians (from 6 million when Europeans first came, to a measly 200,000 now). Also their culture and way of life has been damaged by the deforestation, and the remaining tribes are forced to live on reservations.
- When trees are cleared, this means there is no canopy to protect the soil from the heavy rainfall, or roots to bind it all together. This causes less interception and more surface runoff and soil erosion. Deforestation is also thought to cause nutrients to leach out of the soil leaving it infertile. This loss in land fertility has already caused many of the farms and large cattle ranches to be abandoned.
- Rivers become polluted doe to various mining operations
- Deforestation causes climatic changes in several ways; less trees means less evaporation and less water vapor in the air. With less moisture, there is already evidence of reduced rainfall totals together with increasing number of local droughts. Also the burning of the forest speeds up global warming as huge amounts of carbon dioxide are released.
- Many scientists claim that roughly one third of the world’s fresh oxygen comes from the tropical rainforest. This supply would be totally lost if the region is deforested.
There have been several methods to try and manage the Amazon rainforest, some much more successful than others. Over time, the move has been focused more on sustainable approaches, where the use of resources is less than the ability of an ecosystem to replace itself, therefore signaling that a state of equilibrium is maintained:
- Reduction in the amount of burning to reduce amounts of natural fertilizer, and try and maintain organic matter
- Try to put a stop to monoculture, and try to promote planting of a number of crops, reducing nutrient depletion.
-Reduce the usage of heavy machinery, which at times has negative effects on the soil.
- Put limitation on the quantity of large scale grazing, also to reduce effect of soil compaction
- Encourage the production of sustainable products and crops including trees, rubber, brazilnuts, wax, honey and as I will explain below, ecotourism. Many organizations have demonstrated that if these plants were harvested sustainably - rainforest land has much more economic value than if timber were harvested or if it were burned down for cattle or farming operations. Sustainable harvesting of these types of resources provides this value today as well more long term income and profits year after year for generations to come.
-Try to maintain the pH value of soil to limit high levels of acidity.
Ecotourism / Conclusion
Ecotourism, another strategy to help the rainforest, is a low-density type of tourism with little impact on the natural surrounding. It is important to locals as they have control over it and see benefits directly. These trips include little damaging technology, help waste get removed from the forest, include meals that are cooked with local ingredients, and the staff is usually local. Education about the rainforest is the central aim of the tour
Brazil is certainly a land of astonishing beauty and biological diversity, and for these reasons deforestation is very troubling. Our actions today will show whether Earth will be impoverished biologically for the future generation.
Here's what a teacher thought of this essay
A good general overview of the Amazon tropical rainforest, examining some of the reasons why it is in under threat and the activities that are taking place to threaten it. There are places where additional detail could be added to strengthen the case study. 4 stars