Forests can help us slow climate change by preventing greenhouse gases from warming our planet.
But humans are making the forests’ job extremely difficult, if not impossible.
- Deforestation means fewer trees to collect carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases (GHGs).
- Deforestation also means that the carbon those trees have been storing is released into the air.
- If those who cut down the trees either leave them to rot or burn them, then more emissions are created.
- Rainforests are cut down mainly for agricultural purposes, which causes emissions too. Most farm-related emissions come in the form of methane (cattle belching) and nitrous oxide (from fertilizers).
- The soil in rainforests is not rich in nutrients, but the trees themselves are. When people get rid of the trees they’re getting rid of the majority of the nutrients too. Even if they burn the trees and use the ashes, those nutrients don’t last very long. Eventually, farmers are struggling because they can’t grow anything with the poor soil. So they burn another patch of forest down. The cycle repeats. 90% of tropical deforestation is due to agriculture–agriculture that quickly becomes unprofitible.
The tragic fall-out from deforestation affects more than the climate.
- Many species of plants and animals become threatened, endangered, or extinct, which then creates an imbalance in the ecosystem.
- Mosquito-borne diseases have become more widespread
- Opportunities increase for plant diseases, such as roya, which threatens coffee plantations.
What is the best solution to help curb deforestation and fight climate change?
Teach those who think they have to cut down the forests for the sake of their livelihoods modern, pro-ecosystem strategies, such as crop intensification (growing more food on less land). Hands-on education that shows real results will be a long-lasting, effective method that will encourage farmers to understand the importance of keeping our forests alive and thriving.
Information sourced from Rainforest Alliance, “a growing network of people who are inspired and committed to working together to achieve our mission of conserving biodiversity and ensuring sustainable livelihoods. Through creative, pragmatic collaboration, we aim to rebalance the planet by building strong forests and healthy communities around the world.”