Deforestation and soil erosion

Although people are part of the bioshpere, we have a far greater ability than other living things to adapt and alter the environment to suit our own needs. We can make it more comfortable and convenient, but sometimes it might be at the expense of our one and only Earth. In some areas of the world the environment has been damaged by the activities of people. There are many environmental problems caused by mankind.

Tropical rainforests help to control the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, and these forests are also home to a huge variety of plant and animal species. In 1950, 15 per cent of the land surface of the Earth was covered by rainforests. By the 1990s only 6 per cent of the land supported forests because trees had been felled for timber and to free land for cattle ranching. This forested area is decreasing all the time.

Indonesia has lost an estimated 72 percent of its original frontier forest.

For example in Indonesia, more than 20 million hectares of forest have been cleared since 1985, but the majority of this land has not been put to productive alternative uses.

Nearly 9 million ha of land, much of it natural forest, have been allocated for development as industrial timber plantations. This land has already been cleared or will be cleared soon. Yet only about 2 million ha have actually been planted with fast-growing species, mostly Acacia mangium, to produce pulpwood. The implication: 7 million ha of former forest land are lying idle.

Nearly 7 million ha of forest had been approved for conversion to estate crop plantations.
By the end of 1997, and this land has almost certainly been cleared. But the area actually converted to oil palm plantations since 1985 is about 2.6 million hectares, while new plantations of other estate crops probably account for another 1-1.5 million ha. The implication: 3 million ha of former forest land are lying idle.

Soil erosion happens naturally, but it can also be caused by cutting down trees on hill slopes so that soil is washed away downhill by heavy rains and storms. In the Himalayas much of the natural forests has been felled for firewood and to increase land for farming. The bare soil is unprotected from the wind. Use of chemical fertilizers instead of organic manure and compost exhausts the soil so that it crumbles into dust and is easily blown away.

Soil is one of our most precious resources. The loss of this resource, through land degradation processes such as wind and water erosion, is one of the most serious environmental problems we are faced with as it is destroying the means of producing our food.

Human activities, particularly agriculture and deforestation, however, have increased erosion rates, as they tend to remove the protective vegetation and reduce the stability of the soil. This human influenced process is termed accelerated erosion. Since 1950 accelerated erosion has resulted in the loss of 1/5 of the topsoil from the worlds agricultural land and 1/5 of the topsoil from tropical forests.

In conclusion, many people are now more conscious of the need to protect the encironment and to preserve the balance of the biosphere where we all live. However, there's still a need to continue raising the awareness with regards to the importance of conserving the environment as many are still either ignorant or indifferent towards the degradation of our precious environment.

Teo Min Min 10A05
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