Rainforest Depletion: Adverse Effects on the Environment
The depletion of tropical rainforests by third world countries, as well as by American industry, has been a growing area of concern for many environmental organizations. Animal rights activists are livid at the frightening rate in which species are becoming extinct in these regions. Conservationists argue that the foliage is disappearing at rates that replanting programs will never be able to compete with. Environmentalists and Meteorologists fear that the elimination of enormous quantities of acreage will result in a long list of problems, including global warming, abnormal precipitation patterns, and unpredictable weather systems, just to name a few. While many of these adverse effects to the regional ecosystems and to the planet as whole may not be evident right away, studies show that if the rate at which these forests are harvested or burned continues as is they will happen eventually. The intent of this paper is to focus on some of the environmental concerns with regard to their causes, the long term effects, and what can and should be done to prevent them.
What is a “Tropical Rain Forest”?
A forest can be categorized in several ways. To be considered a Tropical Rain Forest, the region must:
1. Lie between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn.
2. Maintain a temperature between 70 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit year round.
3. Have between 80 and 400 inches of rainfall annually.
This map shows the regions meeting these criteria (highlighted in green):
Rainforests can be further broken down into categories depending on how far above sea level they are, but for our purposes we will focus on all of the tropical rain forests indicated. These regions account for about 20% of the world’s forest land, and cover between 6 and 7% of the Earth’s land surface.
Depletion: Rates and Reasons
Rainforest are being depleted at alarming rates for a number of reasons. A number of raw materials can be obtained from these regions, including oil, rubber, spices, and hardwoods, just to name a few. Industry from all over the world is obtaining these resources without regard for the adverse effects to the environment that will result. Vast areas are being burned and used as farm land. The remaining ash serves as a good fertilizer for the crops for two or three years, and then another patch must be cleared. As populations increase in some regions, rainforest is burned or cleared for development. Trees are cleared by cattle farmers for pasture. The grass is eliminated , the soil is washed away, and only a hard crust remains, leaving an area that probably won’t flourish again for many years.
Due to all of the aforementioned reasons, the quantity of acreage that is being eliminated each year is staggering. Each year, about 20 million hectares are lost. In comparison, Austria covers about 10 million hectares. This...