Consequences of forest destruction

A man on his dug-out canoe on the river Dzanga in the Central African Republic

When forests are destroyed, valuable habitats for animals, plants and human beings are lost – often irretrievably. Around 1.6 billion people, including members of more than 2,000 indigenous peoples, depend on the forest. The forest is the source of their food, medicines and construction materials, and they generate income from forest products. It is also estimated that some 2.4 billion people use firewood as a source of energy for cooking and heating.

Forests are home to around 90 per cent of terrestrial species diversity worldwide. The tropical rainforests are particularly species-rich – and these are the very forests that are being destroyed at such a high rate. The study entitled The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB), which was prompted and co-financed by Germany, estimates the average financial value of one hectare of intact rainforest to be 6,120 US dollars per annum. When species-rich forests are destroyed, huge economic and biological potential is lost for future generations.

Forests also play a key role in tackling climate change. The huge swathes of rainforest regulate temperature and precipitation. Deforestation, on the other hand, releases large amounts of carbon dioxide – some 12 per cent of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions worldwide are caused by forest damage or destruction. In other words this reinforces climate change – which in turn damages the forests, for instance through extreme storms, increased risk of fire and the proliferation of pests.

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