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Millennium Post

A losing battle

A losing battle
World Forest Days come and go; but few, if any at all, are really bothered about the fast depleting green cover and the loss of its inhabitants. Sans doubt, this has caused a huge negative impact on Climate Change. Forests cover about 30 per cent of the planet but deforestation is clearing these essential habitats on a massive scale. According to several estimates, the world's rainforests could completely vanish in a 100 years. Farmers cut forests to provide more room for planting crops or grazing livestock. Often, small farmers will clear a few acres by cutting down trees and burning them in a process known as slash and burn agriculture. Logging operations, much of them illegal, which provide the world's wood and paper products, also cut countless trees each year. Forests are diminished as a result of the growing urban sprawl. Not that all deforestation is intentional. Some are caused by a combination of human and natural factors like wildfires and subsequent overgrazing, which may prevent the growth of young trees. There is, of course, a dramatic impact of the loss of habitat for millions of species. 80 per cent of Earth's land animals cannot survive the deforestation that destroys their homes. Deforestation also drives Climate Change. Trees help perpetuate the water cycle by returning water vapour to the atmosphere. Removing trees deprives the forest of portions of its canopy, which blocks the sun's rays during the day, and holds in heat at night. This disruption leads to more extreme temperature swings that can be harmful to plants and animals. The green cover also plays a critical role in absorbing the greenhouse gases that fuel global warming. Fewer forests implicate larger amounts of greenhouse gases entering the atmosphere and an increased speed and severity of global warming. The number of new tree plantations is growing each year but their total still equals a tiny fraction of the Earth's forested land. Many of the world's most threatened and endangered animals live in forests and 1.6 billion people rely on the benefits that the forests offer, including food, fresh water, clothing, traditional medicine and shelter. We are losing 18.7 million acres of forests annually, equivalent to 27 soccer fields every minute. The green cover acts as a carbon sink, soaking up carbon dioxide that would otherwise be free in the atmosphere and contribute to ongoing changes in climate patterns. It is estimated that 15 per cent of all greenhouse gas emissions are the result of deforestation. This is of particular concern in tropical rainforests because these forests are home to much of the world's biodiversity. Deforestation in this region is particularly rampant near more populated areas—roads and rivers—but even the remote areas have been encroached upon when valuable mahogany, gold and oil are discovered.

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