Deforestation is by far the most damaging contribution to climate change, which is arguably the biggest problem facing mankind today. Deforestation is a multi-level problem, not only is this industry burning fossil fuels to cut down forests of different types internationally, but this land is often used for livestock agriculture, which in itself releases even more greenhouses gases mostly in the form of methane. Furthermore, deforestation is the active destruction of one of the main tools in the carbon cycle for pulling carbon out of the Earth’s atmosphere, causing the rate of the greenhouse effect to increase evermore sharply.
Forests are also massive pools of biodiversity; forest ecosystems are often home to thousands of species of plants, insects, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, fungi and a range of microorganisms. Deforestation directly removes not just trees then, but this whole abundant ecosystem with it. Humans currently utilise at least 40,000 species of plants and animals for everything from food to clothing, from shelter to medicine and that is just from the species we know. Scientists have estimated that we have currently catalogued less than 15% of the 8.7 million species thought to exist worldwide; removing pools of biodiversity in this way will only go to further remove possible useful species from existence, possibly destroying future miracle cures.
Much of the damage that is continually being done cannot be undone, especially when considering stories such as the planned logging of Białowieża forest on the border of Poland and Belarus, despite it being a UNESCO world heritage site. Old growth forests such as this have existed for thousands of years untouched, and have developed not only a huge biodiversity of animal life, but a delicate soil biodiversity consisting of bacteria, protozoa and fungi that cannot be replaced when disrupted by processes such as deforestation. This destruction of habitat causing the loss of soil biodiversity also feeds into soil degradation, which can in extremes lead to a loss of agriculture, and an increased likelihood of landslide and desertification. Deforestation is the biggest environmental problem as it is the glue that holds all these other issues together, a loss of the world’s forests will unavoidably lead to number of other increasingly worse environmental issues.