Tropical Rainforest

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Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Human Influences

For centuries, mankind played a tremendous role in the deforestation of the tropical rainforest. Human influence has caused millions of tropical animal and plant species to lose their homes or become extinct. In the past, clearance was evident but the impact was relatively smaller than today’s. Unfortunately in this present time, there are more people than there are land availabilities and food supplies, so more land must be cleared in order to satisfy the demands and needs. As the population rapidly continues to increase, this leads to more destruction of the rain forest areas from all parts of the world.

(Park, 1992)

“Hot spots” means there are some places of the tropical rainforest that are more threatened and endangered than others. These “hot spot” places need critical attention and management to save what is left of the tropical rainforests. (Park)

According to FAO, about 50% of the world’s forest has disappeared since 1950. Soon it may disappear forever if deforestation continues. Some human activities leave species helplessly; many are exploited for food, cut for sell and cleared for agriculture purposes. (Park) If depletion of the tropical rainforest does not stop immediately, the consequences will inevitably and extremely damaging to the Earth and as well as to mankind. (image: Park, 1992)

There are many reasons for the clearance of the tropical rainforest. The increase in population, the economical value of trees and other factors are all contributors, in one way or other, to commercial logging, cattle ranching, cash crop growing, mining, and road constructing. (iamge: Taylor, 1962)

One of the main causes of deforestation is logging, like in South-East Asia and Africa. (Stoddard) With its high and rich ecosystem, tropical trees hold some economical value, thus attracts commercial logging companies. In short-term, the trees are able to provide a high return profit than cattle ranching or cash cropping. Hardwoods are usually exported by poor countries nearby and are shipped to rich developing countries. (Park) Ironically as mentioned, trees are very profitable but some woods are made into cheap products that are sold to consumers. (images:Park, 1992; Stoddard, 1978)

(images: Stoddard, 1978)
Thousands of trees are cut regularly in a day to day basis, which results in a net lost of the rainforest because the rate of clearance exceeds the rate of tree growth. (Park) With the rapid rate and persistent of logging, the rainforests are ineffectively unable to replenish the previous depleted trees.

Cattle ranching and cash cropping are the second main causes of deforestation. Farmers would clear a large portion of the forest and grow monoculture or multiple crops. The economic return of crops are unpredictable because farmers may encounter many problems, like plant diseases, pest attacks and unsuitable climates, eventually killing the crops. Cattle ranching is more damaging due to its requirement for a massive land space. The tropical soils are very poor in nutrient, so they are likely to be deteriorated quicker by grazing animals. Grazing tends to compact the soil, and expose the soils to various types of erosion. Evidently, the soil will lose its physical, chemical and biological structure, leaving the soil to support succession of forest. (image: Park, 1992)

The forest is also threatened by mining and road building. (Taylor) There are rich minerals, (such as gold, diamonds, tin, uranium) that are embedded beneath the basement rocks. Some countries can profit a large sum of money from participating in mining. As for road building, it affects directly and indirectly to the rainforest. The physical construction process has a very direct impact because road will compact the soil as well as killing plants. Building roads require a large open space, indirectly inducing other disturbances to occur and clearance pressure. (images: Park, 1992)


Book source:
Park, Chris C. Tropical Rainforest. London and New York: Routledge, 1992

Stoddard, Charles H. Essentials of Forestry Practice. 3rd ed. New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 1978

Picture source:
Park, Chris C. Tropical Rainforest. London and New York: Routledge, 1992

Stoddard, Charles H. Essentials of Forestry Practice. 3rd ed. New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 1978

Taylor, Charles J. Tropical Forestry: with particular reference to West
Africa. London: Oxford University Press, 1962


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