Articles on forests, our vital carbon sinks. We examine the climate dangers of deforestation, wood burning and land use change, the ecological value of rainforests, and the importance of tree-planting to help reduce global warming.
We explain all you need to know about the extent of deforestation in the Congo Basin of West Africa, We look at why tree cover is still being lost – clearance by susistence farmers and commercial logging – and how poverty drives much of the process. We also provide six reasons why the Congo rainforest biome should be preserved. Most importantly, primeval forests like those in the equatorial Congo serve as important carbon reservoirs, storing carbon dioxide that would otherwise remain in the atmosphere and add to global warming.
Do wildfires affect global warming? Is wood burning really carbon neutral? If not, why have authorities in America and the EU approved its use as a fuel with net-zero emissions? What’s the truth about emissions from wood combustion? Is it better for climate change to burn wood, rather than coal or natural gas? What toxic fumes does wood emit when burned? We answer all these questions and more.
Some experts say that tree-planting is the answer to climate change. Others disagree. They say that while more trees may absorb more carbon dioxide (CO2), they cannot compensate for the huge amounts of CO2 and other greenhouse gases being pumped into the atmosphere by power plants, cement factories, motor vehicles, agriculture and other sources. Nor can trees cope with the air pollution involved. We look at scientific studies and assess the role and effectiveness of trees in climate mitigation.
We give a brief history of deforestation around the world, beginning with the Carboniferous Rainforest Collapse of prehistory. We cover the exploitation of forests by early civilizations like the Greeks and Romans, before examining deforestation in the modern world. We ask: what can history teach us about the causes of present-day forest degradation? Without doubt, population growth and poverty are two key drivers, although commercial greed is always lurking in the undergrowth.
The economic and ecological effects of forest clearance are serious and growing. They fall most heavily on local communities who rarely see their share of benefits. But they also affect global climate and loss of biodiversity. We explain all the main adverse effects of deforestation, including: an increase in global warming, water supply problems, soil erosion, loss of biodiversity, loss of medicinal plants, spread of disease, and more.
We examine the history, causes and rate of forest clearance within the tropical Amazon Basin. We explain why some scientists think that deforestation, in concert with rising temperatures from global warming, may lead to the large-scale drying out of the Amazonian biome. This process, known as ‘savannization’, is said to be a climate tipping point which will be reached once a certain proportion of the Amazon Rainforest disappears. Such a scenario would be catastrophic for climate stability throughout the Americas, and could lead to the crossing of other critical climate thresholds.
Twice the size of India, the Amazon Rainforest occupies almost the entire width of northern South America, from the Atlantic in the east, to the foothills of the Andes mountains in the west. In addition to its 390 billion trees, which makes it an irreplaceable carbon reservoir, it supports at least 10 percent of the world’s animal and plant species. It is dominated by the mighty Amazon River, 6,600 kilometers in length, which has more than 1,100 tributaries as well as the largest number of freshwater fish species in the world.
Land use is the conversion of a natural, untouched area of land into a managed environment, such as arable fields, pastures, and managed woods, or settlements. We explain the ecological and climatic importance of how land is managed, maintained, fertilized and irrigated. We look at how improved agricultural practices can reduce global warming, and how to feed a growing population without destroying the planet.
• Half the world’s rainforests have been destroyed this century. An area the size of Europe has been razed since 1977. • Forests are important carbon sinks. Of the 39 billion tons of carbon dioxide we emit into the atmosphere every year, 28 percent is absorbed on land, mostly by forests, and around 25 percent by oceans. • When plants and trees are cut down, they stop absorbing carbon dioxide and start emitting it. This is why deforestation and forest degradation accounts for 7-9 percent of the world's greenhouse gas emissions. • Forests are home to 80 percent of the world’s land species. The Amazon rainforest's titan beetle grows up to 18 cm (7 inches) in length, while the Goliath bird eating spider has legs that grow up to 30 cm (12 inches) in length, and weighs up to 170 gm (6 oz). • The Amazon rainforest is the world's greatest storehouse of biodiversity with more than 80,000 plant species. Medicinal plants from the rainforest account for roughly 25 per cent of all drugs in use today to treat conditions like cancer, high blood pressure, tuberculosis and glaucoma. But only 1 percent of rainforest plants have been studied for their pharmaceutical potential. • The Congo Rainforest is the second largest tropical rainforest in the world, after the Amazon Rainforest. At the current rate of deforestation, the Congo Basin rainforest will disappear by 2100, while the Amazon could turn into savannah. • Planting trees is one way to help mitigate the effects of climate change. In 2019 Ethiopia set a tree planting record by planting 350 million tree saplings in 12 hours. • Land use: 10 percent of the world is glaciated, and a further 19 percent is barren (deserts, sand dunes, and exposed rocks). The rest is 'habitable land', and is divided as follows: 50 percent for agriculture, 37 percent forest, 11 percent shrubs & grassland, 1 percent freshwater, 1 percent human settlements (cities etc.) and infrastructure.