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MAIN Arrow to Going Green Guides Society Arrow to Going Green Guides Go Green Guides Arrow to Saving Trees & Forests Saving Trees & Rainforests

Go Green GuideIf we were to think of the Earth's ecosystem as a living thing, the trees of the world would be the lungs.

As every school child knows, trees breath in carbon dioxide, removing the carbon from the atmosphere and thereby helping to combat greenhouse gases and global warming. The process of photosynthesis also releases the oxygen necessary for respiration which is the process that both plants and animals need in order to survive. 

It is for this reason that the rampant deforestation around the world is particularly distressing. Wood is a remarkably versatile natural resource, and human civilizations across the planet have never been shy about exploiting it to feed their economies. Hundreds years of doing this, however, has significantly depleted the world's forests.

The dangers of deforestation

Today, many rainforests, for instance, are depleted to less than ten percent of their original size. Madagascar, for one glaring example, has lost over ninety percent of its forests that has led to the extinction of a large number of insect species on the island.

amazon deforestation timeline
2003 2005 2010  

These satellite images show the progression of deforestation in western Brazil — once home to 208,000 square kilometers of forest (about 51.4 million acres), an area slightly smaller than the state of Kansas — which has become one of the most deforested parts of the Amazon. (Credit: NASA/Goddard Scientific Visualization Studio)

The rainforests of Southeast Asia, which are host to an amazing amount of biodiversity, have also suffered extreme deforestation, and the countless species and ecosystems that depend on those forests have suffered accordingly.

Perhaps the most prophetic example of deforestation has been Easter Island. The complete collapse of the once lush, subtropical forests of Easter Island has been shown to coincide with the subsequent collapse of the civilization that existed on Easter Island. Historians often wonder what Easter Islanders must have been thinking (if at all) when they cut down the last tree.

Currently, there are many efforts underway to save the various forests that remain largely intact. The Amazon rainforest in particular is a focus of conservationists everywhere because of its huge size and amazing biodiversity.

One of the biggest contributors to deforestation in Brazil, and many other developing countries, is slash and burn farming. Poor farmers with no other means of supporting themselves cut the forest down and burn the organic matter to fertilize the soil. When the soil becomes unusable, they repeat the process, cutting further into the forest.

Examples like this abound and, in many cases, the best method for stopping deforestation is to give those exploiting these natural resources other means of supporting themselves. If we don't, we must contend with the fact that our world will come to resemble Easter Island more and more every day.

also see in Travel -> Ecotourism

More about saving trees & rainforests around the Web:

Alliance for Community Trees - Helping to keep urban areas green with a major portal to information, student & teacher resources, urban forestry job listings, volunteer information, listserv, free newsletters.

Arbor Day Foundation - Information central with tips & advice on planting, pruning and general care, searchable database of U.S. urban foresters, guidebook to sustainability, online forum.



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