DEFORESTATION

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  Introduction

Habitat is very important and must be considered in this issue. Habitat is an environment where plants and animals grow and live. Many think of habitat as just a shelter but it also deals with food, water and a place to nurse their offspring. When deforestation occurs, many animals are affected because all those key elements that make up habitat are taken away from them. Since the industrial revolution, forestry around the world has been reduced by 20% (Pfaff, 1999). Deforestation has been practiced by humans since the beginnings of civilization. Fire was the first tool that allowed humans to modify the landscape. The first evidence of deforestation shows up in the Mesolithic was probably used to drive game into more accessible areas.

It has been argued that the lack of specificity in the use of the term deforestation distorts forestry issues. The term deforestation is used to refer to activities that use the forest, for example, fuel wood cutting, commercial logging, as well as activities that cause temporary removal of forest cover such as the slash and burn technique, a component of some shifting cultivation agricultural systems or clear cutting, (Dudley, 1995).

Deforestation defined broadly can include not only conversion to non-forest, but also degradation that reduces forest quality, the density and the structure of the trees, the ecological services supplied, the biomass of plants and animals, the species diversity and the genetic diversity, (Brown and Pearce, 1994). Defined narrowly, deforestation is the removal of forest cover to an extent that allows for alternative land use. The United Nations Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD) uses a broad defMbotion, while the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nation uses a narrow defMbotion.

Forest is a track of land covered by plants association predominantly composed of trees and other woody vegetation. The ‘forest, as plant community often includes mosses, lichens, fungi, bacteria, insects, reptiles, birds and mammals. Other inseparable components of the forest are streams, rivers, rock out-crops and other land forms within it (Etukudo, 2000). Forest represents an enormous valuable resource in terms of the diverse economic products and environmental services it provides (Roper, 1999). The lives of a lot of people depend on the forest (Okojie, 1997).

Of all the environmental concerns facing developing nations in the humid tropics, large-scale deforestation is certainly the cause which has most galvanized world attention, and it is one of the most serious environmental problems facing Nigeria today (Adedire, 2000). One way of solving this problem has been the creation of forest reserves. Forest reserve had been treated as an unwelcome form of land use because the creation of forest reserve led to the loss of land ownership by communities (Osemeobo, 1988). 

Deforestation results from removal of trees without sufficient reforestation and results in decline in habitat and biodiversity, wood for fuel and industrial use and decline in quality of life. Since about the mid 1800s the Earth has been experiencing an unprecedented rate of change and destruction of forests worldwide. Forests in Europe are adversely affected by acid rain and very large areas of Siberia have been harvested since the collapse of the Soviet Union. However, according to the FAO, Nigeria has the world’s highest deforestation rate of primary forests. It has lost more than half of its primary forest in the last five years. Causes cited are logging, subsistence agriculture, and the collection of fuel wood.

There is nothing positive to this issue, only negative effects. Some negative effects of deforestation are that the air we breathe is affected, habitats are affected and the soil is affected by erosion and infertility. When deforestation occurs, the trees are cut down and either get burned or decomposed, these releases back the carbon dioxide that it took in back into the atmosphere. With the population increasing rapidly, it is essential that there are enough trees helping to convert carbon dioxide into oxygen for humans to breathe. One country that has been greatly affected by deforestation has been Mexico (Foreman and Wolke,1992). Mexico has lost 7.8 million hectares of forest whether it was legal or not. For every cubic metre of wood taken legally, two cubic metres were taken illegally. Another place that has been affected by deforestation and the most specific place that has occurred, is in the Taiga in Siberia. These countries that are being affected by deforestation have had high carbon dioxide emissions because there are no trees to convert the air into oxygen.