Deforestation is the permanent clearance of naturally existing trees in forests in order to make room for something else. This can include clearing land for agriculture or animal husbandry, or using tree timber for fuel, construction or manufacturing.
According to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), forests cover more than 30% of Earth's land surface. Naturally occurring forests offer a multitude of benefits such as food, medicine and fuel to more than a billion people around the world. Worldwide, forests provide 13.4 million people with jobs directly within the forestry sector, and another 41 million people have jobs related to forestry.
National Geographic reports that in North America, about half the forests in the eastern part of the continent were cut down for timber and farming between the 1600s and late 1800s. Today, most deforestation is happening in Asia and other regions within the tropics. Areas that were previously inaccessible in the past are now within reach as new roads are constructed through the dense forests.
One of the leading culprits of deforestation has been the palm oil sector. Palm oil is the most commonly produced vegetable oil and is found in half of all supermarket products. It's cheap, versatile and can be added to both food and personal products like lipsticks and shampoo. Its popularity has spurred people to clear forests to grow more palm trees. This is particularly true in Malaysia and Indonesia, the home of two of Agroforestry Group's project based clients. Growing the trees that produce the palm oil requires the leveling of native forest and the destruction of local peat lands — which doubles the harmful effect on the ecosystem. According to a report published by Zion Market Research, the palm oil industry was valued at 65.73 USD billion in 2015 and is expected to reach 92.84 USD billion in 2021. Agroforestry Group through its in Malaysian and Indonesian associated projects is playing its part by helping diversifying the countries over reliance on the destructive palm oil industry.
The Effects of Deforestation
Soil and the nutrients in them are exposed to the sun’s heat when lack of trees and foliage exists. Soil moisture is dried up, nutrients evaporate and bacteria that help break down organic matter are affected. Eventually, rain washes down the soil surfaces and erosion take place.
Many species of plants and animals have been lost, and many others are becoming increasingly more endangered. More than 80% of the world's species remain in the Tropical Rainforest. It is estimated that about 50 to 100 species of animals are being lost each day as a result of the destruction of their habitats.
Plants absorb carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas from the atmosphere and use it to produce food. In return, they give off oxygen. Destroying the forests means carbon dioxide remains in the atmosphere and in addition, destroyed vegetation will give off more stored carbon dioxide as they decompose. This alters climates drastically, with cool climates getting warmer, and hot places getting cooler over time.