What are the causes of deforestation in the rainforest?
There are a range of reasons why deforestation is occurring in the rainforest. These are explored below.
Deforestation in the rainforest involves removing trees and using the land for another purpose. The global rates of rainforest deforestation are:
The image below shows some of the causes and effects of deforestation in the Amazon Rainforest.
Slash and burn
Most clearances are still by the local people and tribes needing land on which to grow crops. They clear the forest by ‘slash and burn’. Vegetation is cut down and then burned. The ash acts as a fertiliser adding nutrients to the soil. When the soil begins to turn infertile (usually after 3-5 years) the people move on. This is called shifting cultivation. It is a sustainable method of farming in the rainforest. It ensures the forest will recover.
Commercial logging is the major cause of primary rainforest destruction in South East Asia and Africa. World wide, it is responsible for the destruction of 5 million ha. per year. Logging roads enable landless people to enter the forest. In Africa, 75% the of land being cleared by peasant farmers has been previously logged.
Ranching is a major cause of deforestation, particularly in Central and South America. In Central America, two-thirds of lowland tropical forests have been turned into pasture since 1950.
There are nearly 3 million landless people in Brazil alone. The government has cleared large areas of the Amazon Rainforest and encouraged people to move there. The scheme has not been successful. Farmers stay on the same land and attempt to farm it year after year. Nutrients in the soil are quickly exhausted as there is no longer a humus layer to provide nutrients. The soil becomes infertile and nothing will grow.
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