Are you wondering how does deforestation affect the biosphere? Like me, you’re rightfully worried about climate change and its devastating effects on life.
And not just humans, although our ability to survive should be enough cause for anxiety.
Well, the news isn’t great or even good.
Deforestation increases greenhouse gases and disrupts the Earth’s water cycle. These disruptions mean the Earth gets hotter, air quality suffers, and it gets drier.
But what is deforestation, is it practical to end it, and can we mitigate its adverse effects on the biosphere? Let’s find out!
What is Deforestation?
Simply put, deforestation is the destruction of trees en masse. This doesn’t mean that the tree you remove in your front yard is deforestation.
If it’s diseased, dying, or rotting, you should remove it. Like, yesterday.
Because a rotting or dying tree can release its carbon dioxide back into the atmosphere.
And we all know that more carbon dioxide means more greenhouse gases are trapping the sunlight’s warmth.
Besides, you’re probably going to plant a new tree in the old one’s place, right?
But deforestation is the removal or destruction of trees on an industrial scale. Entire forests or large sections of forests are cleared out, cut down, or burned.
There are several reasons for this, including manufacturing needs and urban sprawl.
How Does Deforestation Affect the Biosphere?
Unfortunately, this is not a simple question with an easy answer. Some of the effects are arguably unseen or unrealized.
In other words, we just don’t know everything about how does climate change affect atmospheric circulation.
However, here is what we do know.
Deforestation Releases Greenhouse Gases
Cutting down trees means that all the carbon dioxide they’ve absorbed from the atmosphere goes right back into it. People worsen the problem when they burn forests or leave trees to rot.
Fires mean the tree releases stored carbon dioxide, and the fire also releases nitrous oxide and other particles.
Maybe you live in a dry, fire-prone state like me. During fire season, active wildfires release smoke and airborne particles. This makes it difficult to impossible to go outside.
Note: Airborne particles and nitrous oxide from controlled burns and wildfires reduce air quality.
When carbon dioxide goes back into the atmosphere, the biosphere experiences a greenhouse effect. Ever been in a greenhouse?
Then you know it’s hot and humid because the environment traps heat and moisture. And hey, it’s not a comfortable place to be for long.
Less Carbon Dioxide Gets Absorbed
So, here’s the really bad news. When you get rid of a bunch of trees and don’t replace them, there’s less of them to absorb carbon dioxide from Earth’s atmosphere.
Tip: You can help fight deforestation by donating to a tree-planting program.
Experts estimate that deforestation is responsible for 420 million hectares since 1990.
While the deforestation rate has gone down since the 1990s, it’s still at an astounding 10 million hectares per year.
That’s a lot fewer trees to absorb natural and human-made carbon dioxide. And that means the greenhouse effect will accelerate that much faster.
It will be more challenging for humans to mitigate the effects of climate change without enough forests.
Deforestation Disrupts Natural Habitats
Cutting down trees destroys the homes of various species. Deforestation can even cause some of these species to become extinct.
The food and shelter some of these animals depend on are gone because of deforestation.
When certain species become extinct or are largely reduced in numbers, this can disrupt the animal kingdom’s biodiversity.
This can end up impacting the circle of life, including humans. The reduction in the bee population is an example.
While an increase in pesticide use is linked to the near extinction of the bee population, dwindling numbers mean less pollination.
If bees no longer exist, many of the fruits and vegetables we currently enjoy go away too.
Note: Cherries and blueberries depend on the honeybee for 90% of the crops’ pollination.
Soil Quality Declines
Deforestation does a number on the soil. When you remove a bunch of trees, it increases the chance that soil will start to erode.
At the very least, you’re looking at an increase in the soil’s erosion rate.
Need a middle school science class refresher? Erosion is when soil (especially topsoil) is lost to wind, water, and other environmental forces.
So instead of having soil that’s five feet deep, you now have only two feet of soil.
What does that matter?
Less soil makes growing crops, plants, and trees more challenging. Additionally, as the nutrients in the soil decrease, the possibility of polluted streams and rivers increases.
That’s because pollutants and sediments travel to bodies of water when erosion happens.
What About the Amazon?
No, I’m not talking about the online retail giant. I’m talking about the Amazon forest. So, how does Amazon deforestation affect the biosphere?
Well, it’s not the best news either.
Deforestation of the Amazon impacts the global water cycle. And not in a good way because fewer Amazon rainforests mean less moisture gets released into the atmosphere.
Note: Rainforest trees recycle moisture from precipitation, which becomes condensation and clouds.
Without this moisture release, there’s less precipitation because enough condensation doesn’t exist to form clouds.
As you know, clouds are responsible for storms that bring snow and rain back down to the ground.
While evaporation from the world’s oceans also helps, groundwater, rivers, and melting snowpacks feed the ocean’s waters.
It’s a complex cycle that can come to a halt if one part of it gets out of whack.
Will Deforestation End?
Ending deforestation is a considerable debate since humans seem to require more space to live and more of the Earth’s resources, including trees.
On an individual level, it’s hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
A decrease in the global population and a complete loss of demand for lumber and paper products might seem the only way to end deforestation.
You can participate in some activities that will help fight deforestation.
1. Communicate With Your Representatives
Hey, companies aren’t the only ones that can lobby Congress. Find out who your representatives are in the House and Senate.
Don’t be afraid to reach out to them with your concerns about deforestation.
Join groups like the Sierra Club and other environmental advocate organizations.
While a single voice will have less legislative impact, joining forces with other like-minded individuals holds more power. Remember your representatives are there to work for you and serve your interests.
Got paper around the house you’re going to throw out? Recycle it instead. You’ll be helping to reduce the number of trees we need to cut down to produce more paper.
Ask your trash company if they have a recycling program.
If they do, ask for a recycling bin the company can pick up with your regular trash. Do you research your nearest recycling center?
3. Plant Trees
Own a home? Do you have room for another small tree somewhere on your property? Planting another tree and taking care of it will go a long way.
Even if it’s an evergreen shrub instead, you’re helping to add another carbon dioxide-absorbing plant to the biosphere.
Read Next: What is the Relationship Between Elevation and Climate?
So, how does deforestation affect the biosphere? As I’ve discussed, deforestation has several negative impacts.
The main problems are an increase in greenhouse gases, reduced air quality, soil erosion, poor soil quality, and disruptions to the global water cycle.
All of these impacts accelerate climate change, which is a challenge and danger to human existence.
Fighting deforestation is something all individuals should be motivated to do. If not for their own benefit, then for future generations.