Where Have All the Forests Gone?

Jacob Lips

One of the most rampant issues of today is the widespread clearcutting of once expansive forested areas.  People are converting some of the most biodiverse lands into grazing area for cattle or palm oil plantations to the detriment of the life that used to live there and for all of us around the globe.

Where is deforestation happening?

All over the planet, areas that once were covered by lush forests are being slowly chipped away at the edges.  What is most concerning however, is that the highest rates of deforestation are occurring in the parts of the world that have the highest variety of wildlife living within those areas.

Tropical rainforests around the world as seeing the most significant reduction in forested area.  This includes the Amazon, the Congo, the island of Madagascar and the jungles of Southeast Asia.  

The reasons for the deforestation vary by the location, but in the end these actions are being done with only one goal in mind, profit.

Why are they doing this?

In the Amazon, areas are being cleared mainly for development and for the addition or expansion of cattle ranches.  Beef, being one of the most carbon heavy foods to produce is having an even larger impact here where hundreds of acres of forest are removed and that much more carbon can not be collected by the trees that used to grow there.

In Africa and Madagascar, the forests are being removed as farmers, often seeking refuge from conflict areas need places to grow food for their families.  Many of them are only doing what they must to survive, but they are harming their futures with their actions.  Also in Africa, trees are targeted for the international lumber trade in ebony and mahogany among others.  

Deforestation in Borneo for palm oil

Photo by Greenpeace

In Southeast Asia, once pristine jungles are being clear cut as shown above and are being replaced by palm oil plantations.  Going from hundreds pf different species per acre to a monoculture of a cash crop is disastrous for the animals that manage to survive the deforestation process.  Here it is immediate profits over the long term potential of the forest that has won the hearts of the governments and companies working to replant the entire region.

What is affected?

Countless species of plants and animals are affected and the worst part is that with such wide scale destruction, many of those animals that are impacted may not even be known to science yet.

In the amazon there are new species being discovered almost daily and as the area of the forest shrinks so will that potential for new life to be found.  Trying to protect every individual species is out of the question, but by focusing on keystone species like the jaguar at the top of the food chain can provide protection for a whole host of other plants and animals which all work together to create a healthy ecosystem.

In Madagascar, the situation is even more dire.  The amount of forested land has decreased by nearly 90%; and with it being an island, there is only so much room for wildlife and people to coexist.  Dozens of endemic species, which are only found there are at risk or are already critically endangered.  Lemurs and chameleons and countless others are already clinging on to the tiny tracts of forest that remain.

How can I help?

Despite this being a monumental task, many charities are working to stop such rampant destruction of the natural world.

The World Wildlife Fund in particular is working in many different capacities to help stem these actions.  They are working with governments around the world to change policies and help craft new laws to ensure lawmakers think hard about the future rather than focusing on the immediate profit potential.  Also, they are funding reforestation and ranger training projects to both replant and protect the forests that are still intact.

Help us spread the word about the animals in danger and show your support for thinking beyond the bottom line.

Check out the Habitat Protection here and remember 10% of all profits go towards making a change for the better with the help of the WWF.


Title Photo by Felipe Werneck

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