The primary reason for the rapid reduction in the size of the worlds greatest natural resource, the Tropical Rainforest, is mainly due to economic incentives, placed on developing countries be it by the World Bank, TNCs or just private investors. This is well illustrated, in Gunung Palung in Indonesia where illegal logging activity is occurring in the this national park because wealthy local merchants and members of the local police, military, and national park staff have been financing small groups of villagers to log, for them.
Exploitation of this resource is common throughout the world this is due to the great demand for hardwoods such as mahogany in MEDCs e. g. Japan which uses large amounts of hardwoods for plywood to make casts for concrete and chopsticks which a great many are used and thrown away in Japan.
The activities which cause the greatest amount of deforestation are; logging and farming plantations, using the slash and burn technique for creating colossal plantations with a short life of two to three years and leaving a thin laterite soil which has formed due to the initial ferralitic soil suffering extensive leaching due to the heavy rainfall of the tropics (2’000mm+).
This is the way that the commercial use of land causes deforestation in the topics, as though the land is very fertile, having the highest, net primary production of any biome on our planet of around 2’200NPP in oppose to a deciduous forest, unlike those found in Britain which has an average of around 1’200NPP, and provides 40% of the worlds net primary production of terrestrial energy, once the cover of the rainforest’s terrestrial canopies is lost, effectively the soil has lost its protection against the rain and an umbrella which intercepts close to all of the heavy rainfall which occurs in these latitudes.
So once a plot of vegetation is consumed the rainforest’s soils are ruined as the layer of humus at the top of the ferralit is leached and the removal of the trees means that there is no recycling of nutrients, so though the returning of all the biota in the system to the soil through, causes a short period of impressive fertility, this is also the method by which the soil diminishes, as the rainforest consists of a very delicate closed system in which trees have the greatest function, as it is believed that in the top canopy of the rainforest along contains 40-95% of the worlds insects, the variation showing how little is in fact known about them.
This process, means that the revival of the rainforest is almost impossible, since the soil can no longer sustain such high energy trees as the amazing emergents, so it is likely that the original habitat may never return and a periglacial environment with usually a much less diverse biome will succeed, such as the prairies, if the original rainforest does return it will take at least a century. Linking perfectly to the reason deforestation occurs, this process occurs because people are reducing the size of the forest more rapidly than it can rejuvenate, thus making a net output of trees or biome in the rainforest, subsequently effecting greatly the food web and bio diversity.
This can also be made worse by the fact that rainforests as well as having soil with great potential and trees, which can be sold for a large profit, when it you consider that a logger in Malaysia in comparison to his piers will earn a fortune, of roughly i??1020, people are now discovering lots of precious minerals such as gold and oil. This though, an excellent prospect for the countries economy can prove decimating to the rainforest, since, to begin with the sites, are generally substantial and oil can spill into rivers, killing fish, but also that great sections of the rainforest have to be flattened to create, crude roads. This improvement of the counties infrastructure and the rainforests accessibility can entice people to move from the overcrowded cities, usually associated with LEDC’s e. g.
Bogota in Ecuador, these people are lured by the prospect of farming; however they typically lack the knowledge retained by the local indigenous people and over cultivate the land, clearing great areas of land and instead of leaving them to fallow, use them till thy are exhausted, causing massive amounts of podsolation. Thus they move further into the forest and cut down more trees once the soil is exhausted to feed their families, this occurs quite quickly and causes rapid deforestation. What are the consequences of this destruction on the environment at a: Local Scale? There is a wide variation in the consequences of deforestation, and I shall touch lightly on a few of these. I have already spoke of the scaring effect of deforestation on soil erosion, where gullying takes place because the trees are no longer there to bind the soil and due to lack of interception the water causes the nutrients to be washed away, leaving the soil infertile.
This effect even has detrimental effects further down the line, this can be viewed, where flooding increases in areas where deforestation has occurred due to soil being washed into rives, and silt accumulating and decreasing the depth of the rivers bed levels, and even reducing the life of dams. In the Philippines, in 1978, there were many landslides during the annual monsoon season due to exposure on slopes due to deforestation as well as many floods, resulting in the loss of shanty towns. This causes massive destruction of the habitat, as you are removing the key biota where many animals feed and live. Some animals may find it impossible to move to another environment, a they are dependant on certain trees which may specific to that part of the forest and so will die out, and follow the estimated 20-75 species lost a day, which will means that if this rate of deforestation continues, 35% of the worlds species will be lost by 2040.
Not only do humans have a moral obligation to look after and preserve, bio diversity, for their children or because they feel the responsibility of a steward, this bio diversity does hold a practical use. 25% of prescribed drugs are derived from the tropical rainforest, and it is argued, that tropical plants may hold the cure to aids and even cancer as in the 1980’s the United States national cancer institute identified 2’000 tropical rainforest plants with the potential to fight cancer. Many indigenous groups are being affected heavily by development of the rainforest. These have mainly been negative and extend beyond the insult of having their hereditary land take from them.
Such as the Amazon where after suffering from a douse of western diseases such as a measles epidemic reducing their number from 5 million in the 1500 to 1 million in the 1900’s, their numbers were further reduced, by being hunted by mercenaries hired by local land owners who wished to infringe on their land or by a ploy in the 1960’s where they dropped poisoned sweeties on the Amazon from aeroplanes, which the indigenous people ate, so now the population is expected to be less than 200’000, smaller than the population of Hackney over an area, 1. 5 million sq km. Also indigenous people are effected by other things such as the construction of dams where a whole tribe can be displaced because a valley is going to be flooded, as occurred in Manaus in Western Amazonia.
Resulting in the loss of culture and land, which they may have used for subsistence farming, loss in culture has also occurred because some of the Indians have become westernised, exploiting their own forests in exchange for goods, such as in Gunung Palung in Indonesia where it is the local tribes that do the logging, also they take wildlife, which are often rare that they can receive a considerable sum for. Mining campaigns into the forest have a diverse affect on the habitat, causing immense noise pollution as well as polluting the atmosphere with ash increasing the albedo affect and reducing the energy input into the forest, and thus the NPP of the surrounding forest.
Mercury poisoning due to gold exploration causes, the death of aquatic animals and can transform the whole ecosystem, altering it for long periods of time, or even indefinitely. Global? The affects of deforestation on the global scale, are mainly climatic. This is theorised to include, increasing the affects of the global warming, because the reduction in the number of trees, means less photosynthesis taking place, meaning what carbon dioxide is being produced is not be converted into oxygen, plus, on plantations the trees are all burnt to return some of their biota back into the soil, so in the burning more carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere, adding to the greenhouse affect and global warming.
It is estimated that 2 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide are released into the atmosphere each year by the burning of the tropical rainforest, roughly about 20% to 30% of the worlds carbon dioxide emissions. Why is it important that Tropical Rainforests are preserved for the future? Tropical Rainforests are an important asset to the world containing most of the worlds natural resources and animal habitat, though they have very few ground animals, it is believed that in Brazil alone there are 2’000 species of birds, 600 species of insects and mosquitoes and 1’500 species of fish. Thus increasingly the bio diversity of our planet greatly making it a much more interesting place to live in, as well as making the world more scenic and beautiful, which is very different from the periglacial states which succeed them.
Also it is the biome which the world depends upon to replace much of its used oxygen. What methods are used to develop Tropical Rainforests in a more sustainable way? More sustainable methods of farming and harvesting the Tropical Rainforest as a natural resource are being developed frequently by scientists, economists and have even been adapted from local methods of farming such as Perma Culture run by the army in Ecuador, as a course for colonisers, to reduce soil erosion. More subtly, and arguably less ambitious are the management schemes, which basically, reduce the amount of logging that can take place and give out quotas and make certain areas national parks or just make them exempt from logging etc.
In some countries where this is enforced effectively it has reduced the rates of deforestation substantially, such as in the Philippines where in 1978 in a move toward enforcement many illegal loggers were prosecuted, together with cancelling some licenses. However in the majority of countries such as Malaysia and Ecuador do not enforce their rules properly and therefore the management schemes are very inefficient, since the government generally turn a blind eye to it, be it because they think its in the economies best interest or corruption, e. g. Sorowak where many influential politicians actually own logging companies, so it is not in their best interests to be hard on logging. However scientists are trying to develop much more ambitious and creative solutions such as Canopy farming, which has had a pilot project launched in Chiapas in Mexico.
This new form of farming has been created to stop the degradation of the forest and to combat poverty, making the potential of state-of-the-art knowledge systems available to the local population. This system takes into consideration the growth of local populations increasing the demand for wood, therefore, agroforestry enterprises can be implemented into the project at a lower base. This project involves canopy silviculture, where the canopy will grow high value products such as medicinal organisms and high value ornamental epiphytes like orchids and bromeliads etc which can easily be harvested, the possibility of discovering new choice canopy products e. g. for medicine etc are limitless.
However it should not be considered that for this project you are sending people back to the primitive times of hunting and gathering in fact this would be a great misconception since canopy cultivation is a state of the art concept. And it makes sense to harvest its resources since if you look at a tropical rainforests biomes, it consumes over 90% of the light, which is the primary energy source for complex biological compounds, and though it is understood that they are one of the most poorly understood ecosystems it is estimated that the canopy of the rainforest hosts between, 40% and 95% of all plant and animal species on the Earth, some of which can never be found on the forest floor. The variety in the range show how little is known about these biomes and demonstrates why they should be conserved.
Now that scientists have untapped the potential of the canopy it only stands for reason that a canopy management project should have started, since this system conserves a lot of the original species of tree and animals, reducing the amount of extinction and has almost know effect on the ground surface, apart from that of human activity gathering the crop from the top of the trees which range from 30-50m now and than Also fighting on the front on conserving the forest, but in its truly natural state are the indigenous people, by means of ecotourism, as by this way, apart from the slight human interference of people appreciating and experiencing tours through this very beautiful ecosystem there is a low ecological risk with high returns from the proportionally wealthy tourists. Therefore it can be ascertained that the methods of sustaining the Tropical Rainforest are many, and are increasing with mans understanding of this amazing resource which is dwindling from the Earth, due to mismanagement and lack of care by MEDCs and LEDCs alike.