While billions of people worldwide have had their lives uprooted and drastically transformed by COVID-19, many societal practices from the pre-pandemic world have continued. Some of these practices are beneficial like getting an education and improving medical knowledge, while others continue to have devastating results on public health and the environment. One of these harmful practices that has not only continued but worsened during the pandemic is deforestation. We have seen deforestation efforts increase globally last year, leading to catastrophic health effects on the environment, climate, people’s everyday lives and pandemic prevention. This practice must be put to an end in order to ensure that people and the planet are safe and healthy.
2020 was a devastating year for forests as global deforestation efforts increased by 12%. The estimated area of woodlands torn down was 10 million square acres — equating to roughly the size of Switzerland or Rhode Island, Delaware, Connecticut and New Jersey combined. The country that included the largest spike in tree removal was Brazil with an increase in deforestation by 85%. The most harmed areas were parts of the Amazon rainforest, which happens to be one of the world’s largest absorbers of carbon dioxide.
The next logical question to ask is why is deforestation increasing? To answer that, we must look at why deforestation occurs at all. There is no sole reason as forests are removed for everything from infrastructure expansion, land-use changes, urbanization and wood extraction. The logging and forest removal industry is estimated to produce between $30 billion and $100 billion each year. The massive profits from this sector cannot be overlooked as they are one of the factors fueling the increases we have seen this past year.
Deforestation’s effect on the environment is vast and incredibly damaging. Removing trees decreases precipitation, which disrupts the water cycle and causes changes to river and stream flows. Water is not only vital for forests but almost every living thing on the planet. A decrease in precipitation could leave species and entire ecosystems without water, forcing them to fend for themselves or migrate. The drop in the amount of water in the ecosystem also allows for potential droughts, which can disrupt ecosystems by reducing food supply. Dry conditions also contribute to an increase in forest fires, as the lack of water makes it easier for flames to catch and spread. Deforestation contributes to soil erosion, as tree roots help anchor the soil, and the trunks and branches help protect it from wind and water. Soil erosion has many negative impacts, from loss of fertile land to worsened flooding, as the ground can no longer absorb floodwaters. Between disrupting the water cycle and eroding the soil, deforestation has countless consequences on the environment.
Like many of the ways humans interact with our environment, deforestation…
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