Definition

An area of land that has been burned and cut. 

Photo by Nanang Sujana for Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR).

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Deforestation occurs when a forest ecosystem is cut down and removed for the area to be used for a new purpose, such as agriculture, urban development or mineral exploration. Deforestation has happened across all the world's forest types, whether they are broadleaf, boreal, deciduous, coniferous or tropical rainforests, although tropical rainforests are currently being removed at a much higher rate than other forest types.

Forests are crucial ecosystems and are home to most of the world’s terrestrial animal and plant species, as well as over 300 million people. The world’s forests provide invaluable and irreplaceable ecosystem services, including clean water, food, climate regulation, building resources and medicine, and these, in turn, provide an income for over 1.6 billion people. Not only do the world’s forests provide a huge amount of people with a place to live and a livelihood, they are also the most biodiverse terrestrial ecosystem on Earth, with around 80 percent of known non-aquatic living organisms calling them home.

Despite their intrinsic value to both humans, plants and animals, we are losing more of our forests every day, reducing biodiversity, causing species extinctions and putting our own future at risk.

Why are we losing our forests?

The reasons that our forests are being removed are diverse and anthropocentric. Forest products form the basis of numerous multi-billion pound industries, which are often rife with corruption, and the removal of forests can provide the space to develop even more consumer products, as well as living space for the ever-growing human population.

Urbanisation

Aerial view of Manaus

Urbanisation is the process by which human settlements expand into the natural areas that surround them, leading to the removal of forests, wetlands, grasslands and other ecosystems.

The human population is growing at the fastest rate in history. By the end of 2016, there were believed to be over 7.5 billion people on Earth, and an additional 17 million people are added to the world’s population each year – an amount that will continue to increase year on year. As the world becomes more overpopulated, added strain is being put on natural habitats as more people means more living space, food and water are required, causing more deforestation.

More humans live in towns and cities in the modern day than ever before as people are leaving rural areas to seek better employment opportunities and education. While this could lead to a reduction of forest removal in rural areas it also means that cities must expand and as more people move into them, usually at the expense of neighbouring natural habitats. City plans do not generally maximise available space, and rather than putting amenities as close together as possible, shops, housing and public buildings are often placed far away from each other and require the use of a car or public transport, leading to ‘urban sprawl’. Roads are then built through forested areas to connect urban areas to each other, leading to further deforestation and opening new, untouched areas up to hunters and illegal loggers. Roads also pose a danger to wildlife as they are at risk of being in a fatal collision with a vehicle.

Forests that persist close to urban areas often become heavily degraded as they are exposed to pollution generated by industrial activities and are vulnerable to exploitation by local people. Often when urban areas are being constructed, high levels of sediment and pollutants enter water systems, causing sedimentation and poisoning of aquatic organisms and subsequently the people who eat them. Suspended sediment in rivers can smother aquatic plants, restricting their ability to photosynthesise and causing them to die. The removal of plants from the aquatic ecosystem causes the food chain to collapse as there is insufficient food for every higher trophic level.

Agricultural conversion

Land conversion for agriculture is believed to be the world’s biggest driver of deforestation, especially in tropical areas.

As the human population grows, more food and therefore more agricultural land are needed. Products such as coffee, soy and palm oil are in high demand around the world, as well as meat and dairy products, leading to vast areas of forest being removed and converted into plantations and arable land. Palm oil production is one of the leading drivers of deforestation in tropical areas today, especially in Malaysia and Indonesia, although the industry is burgeoning in other tropical nations too. The plant that palm oil is derived from, the African oil palm, is native to West and Central Africa. There has been a recent boom in the palm oil industry due to the product being versatile and cheap, and it is now the most used vegetable oil in the world, being used in everything from biscuits to biofuel and washing powder, and appearing in around 50 percent of supermarket products. Vast areas of rainforest have been cleared to make way for palm oil plantations, with between 50 and 60 percent of production thought to have been at the expense of pristine primary rainforest, driving many endangered species further towards the brink of extinction. The monocultures created by this type of agriculture are extremely hostile environments that very few animals are able to colonise, and those that do are often seen as pests.

Large swathes of tropical forests are removed for cattle ranching as well as crop production and any forest regrowth is made impossible by cattle grazing on tree saplings. In many forests, unregulated grazing has led to degradation and erosion, causing damage to the entire forest ecosystem. Deforestation for pasture is particularly prevalent in the Amazon, where it is believed that around 17 percent of the forest cover has been lost in the last 50 years, mainly for this purpose.

A particularly harmful method of defoliating an area is a technique known as ‘slash and burn’, which is where a farmer removes part of the forest vegetation, usually any valuable trees or plants, and then burns the rest. A layer of ash remains on the soil which wlil provide a small amount of nutrition for any crops that are later grown there. Where this technique has been used, crops display a large amount of growth for the first two or three years, before the soil’s nutrients are used up and land becomes infertile. When this happens, farmers begin to use chemical fertilisers which can cause numerous ecological problems, as well as being expensive. When the cost of the fertiliser begins to outweigh the income, farmers will move to another plot of land and clear another area of forest. Throughout history, farmers have used this technique to clear land but today, slash and burn is being used far beyond a sustainable level. It is thought that it takes up to 20 years for the fertility of soil to return to a reasonable level after slash and burn techniques have been used, although the majority of land that has been farmed never returns to its former forested state. Bizarrely, rainforest soils are acidic and nutrient-poor and are among the worst places to grow crops in the world.

Using slash and burn can also lead to out of control fires that spread into other areas of the forest, releasing a huge amount of carbon, causing air pollution and contributing to global warming. The natural ecosystems in areas where deforestation rates are at their highest, such as Indonesia and Malaysia’s peatlands, can hold up to 28 times more carbon than other forests, therefore their removal is highly detrimental. Once a peatland has been drained and burned greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide and methane, continue to be released from the area for many years to come. In Southeast Asia it is believed that tens of thousands of deaths are caused every year due to air pollution from forest burning, and a single forest fire in early 2016 caused by an out of control slash and burn fire was thought to have been responsible for over 100,000 premature human deaths, as well as devastating local biodiversity.

Logging

Logging is the process by which trees are cut down and collected to be sold for commercial gain, and supplies the materials for numerous industries such as paper, packaging and furniture. Done responsibly, logging can be done in a relatively sustainable way, however, illegal logging is usually done using highly damaging techniques, often being responsible for the eventual deforestation and degradation of a previously pristine area. Illegal logging is a huge business that is thought to be worth over £22 billion (USD$27.3 billion) each year. Identifying illegally-sourced timber is extremely difficult, therefore it is believed to regularly appear in what are believed to be legal forest products. Illegal logging damages the legal logging industry by driving down the market price of legally sourced timber, which can dishearten those who play by the rules, encouraging them to partake in unlawful activities.

As well as being destructive to natural ecosystems, illegal logging is highly destructive to the economy of a country as revenue that could have been made through legal logging is lost to the black market. As illegal logging is prevalent in developing countries, masses of tax money is thought to be lost each year and corruption is rife in the legal industry, therefore despite there being many laws in place to prevent illegal activities, they are very rarely enforced. Despite vast areas of forest being designated as protected areas, illegal logging is known to be prevalent throughout them as it is extremely difficult for rangers to monitor every single area. Even when legal logging occurs, many companies under-report the amount of timber they have acquired or harvest endangered, high-value trees to make more money. It is thought that between 60 and 80 percent of logging in the Amazon Rainforest is illegal, and around 65 percent of the overall world timber supply is sourced illegally.

In most forest ecosystems, there is a mixture of tree species where no one species dominates. In these areas, logging companies use a variety of techniques to access the most attractive timber trees, usually using heavy machinery which causes enormous amounts of damage. Clear-cutting is a devastating method of timber extraction, where an entire area is cut down for the company to use an extremely small percentage of the trees that they have felled, as this is the easiest extraction process and generates the most profit. The rest of the ‘useless’ plants and trees are left to decay, and the land may be settled by farmers. Loggers also create roads into the forest to access the best trees, which leaves the area open to poachers, illegal loggers and invasive species. Other loggers may just cut a single high-value tree down in an area, but the removal of this one tree could result in the destruction of an entire area of forest as trees are often connected to each other by their branches or lianas, or the cut tree could fall over onto other trees, breaking or destroying them. Additionally, the removal of even one tree disturbs the forest canopy causing changes in the ecosystem and creating masses of leaf litter, which makes the area vulnerable to forest fires. The shift from traditional, lower-impact logging methods to modern day commercial methods which use heavy machinery has led to a drastic increase in deforestation. 

While large-scale commercial logging is highly destructive to forests, small-scale subsistence logging can also be harmful. In developing countries, wood from the forest is used as fuel, either in its natural form or turned into charcoal, and it is thought that around half of the wood that is taken illegally from forests is used for fuel. Dependence on forest resources by local communities has resulted in the degradation of many forests, resulting on further encroachment into ever-decreasing fragments. Sustainable management of logging operations is crucial to the survival of the world’s forests.

Fire

Villagers practicing putting out flames during a fire drill

While some wildfires occur naturally and can be started by lightening, others are triggered by human influence, such as farmers burning vegetation to make way for agricultural land. Fires are part of the natural cycle of many forests and can be beneficial, although if they occur in the wrong place at the wrong time, they can be catastrophic. Unlike with other threats, a forest can recover from a wildfire in just a few years, whereas other stressors can cause permanent or irreparable damage. Unfortunately, however, commercial companies and farmers often see these fires as an opportunity to develop the land, meaning it will never return to forest.

The same amount of forest is thought to be lost each year through wildfires as agriculture and logging put together.

 

Mining

Activity in local coal mining

Mineral and fuel exploration has not only been responsible for the destruction of vast areas of natural habitat all over the world, but has also lead to the pollution of water systems, displacement of humans and extinctions of species. While mining is not as much of a contributor to global deforestation rates as other industries, its effects can be equally if not more disastrous to neighbouring ecosystems due to the processes involved.

Forests are frequently targeted by mineral and fuel companies who wish to explore the ground beneath them for gold, diamonds, copper, nickel, oil, coal, gas, and many other products. In recent years, the mining of the conductive materials used within the operating systems of smartphones has led to the destruction of extensive swathes of forest, especially in the Democratic Republic of Congo which is thought to be the only place that one of the required minerals, coltan, can be found.

When exploration of an area begins, prospectors will often cut trees and use them for building and fuel and hunt local wildlife, so the natural habitat is affected even before the mining has begun. If an area is believed to contain minerals, explosives are often used to create craters which can then be mined. This process deforests the area as well as displacing large volumes of rock and soil, causing more habitat to be destroyed. To separate minerals from rock and soil, hazardous substances such as arsenic, cyanide and mercury are used, along with vast amounts of water. When the water drains back into local rivers or streams from the mining site, it is often contaminated with heavy metals and chemicals which can cause poisoning of local people and wildlife, as well as high levels of sediment which reduces water quality and smothers aquatic plants, killing them. Mining also unearths metal sulphides and exposes them to oxygen which can create sulphuric acid and metal oxides that also enter the water system. Once the minerals have been mined, they are melted down using charcoal which will usually have been produced using wood from nearby forests, another factor contributing to deforestation. Deviation of water from its natural pathway can also cause flooding and can permanently alter the water table. The dust generated from mining can cause respiratory issues in local people, as well as the miners, and suffocate trees and plants. The high levels of noise caused by the mining operations drive animals away from the area, potentially into unsuitable habitats where they may have to compete for food or living space or be in danger of being hunted.

Searching for oil is a much more careful and complicated process than for minerals but is equally, if not more, destructive. There have been numerous reports from around the world of oil spills in pristine habitats and leakage of oil into water systems, endangering indigenous people and wildlife. Oil and gas exploration also has the added danger that both substances are extremely flammable and therefore there is an increased risk of fire, which could spread and devastate an area of forest. As the world’s oil stocks are not limitless, more pressure is being put on the world’s forests as new, untapped sites for exploration.

Due to the high price of minerals and lack of enforcement, illegal mining is extremely prevalent and even persists within protected areas. Illegal miners can very quickly set up a mine and extract whatever they can before any authorities are alerted, and their mines will often be created deep in a forested area, out of the watchful eyes of park rangers. The illegal gold industry is believed to be worth around £2.35 billion (USD$2.8 billion) annually, and it is estimated that around 20 percent of Peruvian gold is derived from illegal mines. Unfortunately, laws against illegal mining are often not enforced and there is a high level of corruption in the industry.

As with other deforestation causes, the creation of roads through the forest to the mining sites and settlements generates numerous ecological issues.

What impact is deforestation having on our natural ecosystems and biodiversity?

A female orangutan

Deforestation is one of the biggest drivers in the reduction of the world’s biodiversity and a key cause of the ‘sixth mass extinction’ which is currently believed to be happening.

Habitat loss

Forest landscape

As up to 80 percent of the world’s terrestrial plant and animal species call tropical forests home, plus those who live in other forest types, the destruction of these crucial ecosystems is causing a devastating reduction in the world’s biodiversity. Forests are the most productive and species-dense habitats on Earth, and their removal is leaving millions of species with constantly decreasing expanses of habitat, often driving them into unsuitable areas where they cannot survive or forcing them into small forest fragments. It has been estimated that around 28,000 species will become extinct in the next 25 years because of due to deforestation.

Poaching

Hunters in the Tumba-Ledima Reserve

When an area of forest is destroyed, the animals that are left in nearby habitats are extremely vulnerable as they are more easily accessible to hunters and poachers. Valued at £17.5 billion (USD$23 billion) per year, the illegal wildlife trade is thought to be the fourth biggest black market industry, behind drugs, human trafficking and arms, and current poaching levels are at their highest ever. Appetite for wildlife parts is increasing as more people are buying Traditional Chinese Medicine remedies such as pangolin scales, rhino horn and tiger bones, as well as exotic meat such as snakes, tortoises and bears.

As the human population increases, more people in developing countries are becoming reliant on bushmeat as a source of protein, and hunting in forests with easy access makes hunting much simpler. Subsistence hunting done in a sustainable way can leave very little impact on a species’ population, but paired with deforestation and human population increase, many animals cannot subsist and become locally extinct.

Many animals around the world are taken from their habitat to supply the illegal pet trade and in many species, mothers will be killed so that poachers can take their young. The removal of any fertile breeding individuals from a wild population is highly detrimental to a species’ survival. Today, the illegal pet trade is prolific and has led to the drastic decline of many forest-dwelling animals such as chimps, lorises and parrots. Overexploitation of animals in many areas of the world has led to what is known as ‘empty forest syndrome’ where the habitat remains but there are few animals left. Over time, due to the lack of animals, the ecosystems will change beyond recognition as the natural food web has been disturbed.

Fragmentation and genetic issues

A bird's eye view of the stark contrast between the forest and agricultural landscapes near Rio Branco

A high proportion of the Earth’s surface was once covered in continuous swathes of forest, and it is now thought that over half of them have been destroyed by humans and deforestation shows no signs of stopping. The former continuity of the world’s forests allowed animals to migrate, responding to environmental or climatic change, to areas that are suitable for them, where there is abundant food and living space. By migrating, the genetic health of populations is retained as individuals are able to mix with populations from different areas, preventing inbreeding.

In the modern day, a large amount of forests are now islands surrounded by urban or agricultural areas, or divided by roads, causing inhibited dispersal of plant and animal life and forcing populations to remain in the same place. Those who do try to cross neighbouring hostile environments are in danger of starvation, conflict with humans or collisions with traffic. Not only does this leave the population vulnerable to natural disasters such as forest fires and extreme weather which could wipe the entire habitat out, but also creates competition for food and resources as habitats have a carrying capacity for each species that they can sustain. If the population existing in a forest fragment is over carrying capacity, many members of the population will die due to a lack of resources. Existing within a forest fragment also leaves the population at risk of being wiped out by disease. Additionally, as the population is unable to migrate gene flow is restricted, causing population bottlenecks which result in inbreeding depression.

The areas at the edge of a forest are always the least biodiverse and by fragmenting a forest, more edges are created. These new outer areas of forest fragments quickly become very different to how they once were due to ‘edge effects’, the severity of which is determined by the neighbouring land use. Edge effects can include increased exposure to light, wind, water and warmer temperatures, which alter the composition of the outermost forest areas. Newly-made forest edges are unsuitable for many species who may have previously inhabited the area and require specific living conditions that can only be found deeper in the forest, although some fragments are too small for these conditions to occur anywhere within them. Many species are dependent on the dark, damp conditions that exist in interior forests or require a large home range and cannot survive once fragmentation has occurred and edge effects alter their habitat.

Edges are also vulnerable to invasive plant and animal species and are exposed to any chemicals or pollutants used on neighbouring land and due to increased wind exposure, soil erosion often occurs. The ecosystem services provided by a forest, such as air and water recycling, are also reduced once it is fragmented.

Fragmentation also reduces the resilience of a forest habitat and its ability to adapt, which are both desperately needed at a time when the world’s climate is drastically changing. As the climate continues to change, animals will need to migrate to more suitable areas, but living within a forest fragment inhibits their ability to do so.

Soil erosion

Conservation Issues
Soil erosion caused by clearing of the forest cover. Soils of rainforest areas are highly erodible.
Gabon
Central Africa
, 2002
AF_CI_LOG_052

Soil erosion is one of the biggest threats to the future of the human species, created as a result of deforestation, as it endangers our future food supply. Humans rely on soil for the generation of crops but we are losing fertile land at a rapid rate, with up to a half thought to have been lost through erosion since 1960. Over the past 50 years it is thought that the amount of agricultural land that has been used and later deserted due to erosion is equal to the amount of land that is in use today.

The soil within a forest is sheltered and anchored by the trees and is usually moist, with a nutrient-rich top layer. Without the protection of trees, soil can dry out and become barren, or be exposed to heavy rains which wash away the nutrients in the soil, leaving it comparatively infertile. Rainwater also carries a large amount of sediment from exposed soil into watercourses, which can cause numerous ecological issues. Unlike trees, the crop plants cannot anchor the fertile soil in the same way, and are actually known to make soil erosion worse.

Climate change

An Orangutan Foundation staff member measuring diameter of breast height to estimate carbon stock
A scientist measuring the diameter of a tree to calculate the carbon storage capacity of the forest

Forests are one of the most important carbon storage systems on Earth, as not only do they remove carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, from the atmosphere in the photosynthesis process but also retain masses of carbon within them. The retention and conversion of carbon by trees helps to keep the Earth cool, and their removal puts stored carbon back into the atmosphere, changing them into carbon sources rather than sinks. The carbon output of deforestation is further exacerbated when slash and burn is used and this technique is the one of highest carbon contributors in the agricultural sector. Deforestation is known to exacerbate climate change and it is responsible for over 15 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, as well as increasing events of extreme weather and changes in climate patterns. Shockingly, the greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation rivals emissions from the entire transportation industry.

What impact is deforestation having on people?

Kichwa children bathing on the banks of Misahualli River near Tena

Deforestation is a serious humanitarian issue, as well as environmental. Not only does forest loss affect biodiversity, as over 1.6 billion people around the world rely on the ecosystem services provided by forests to survive. Forests provide people with shelter, fresh water, food, building materials and traditional medicine, and many cultural beliefs are based around them. Many tribes have been displaced after their land, which has been their home for countless generations, has been deforested for logging or agriculture, or mines have caused such bad ecological issues that they have been forced to move to avoid starvation, illness or poisoning.

As well as direct effects on local communities, the indirect effects of deforestation will be felt by every person on Earth as weather patterns change and the frequency of extreme weather events increases. Forests help to keep our air clean and their removal in many areas, especially in industrial areas, is causing multiple health issues for local populations. Forests are also crucial for recreation, and their removal reduces opportunity for people to connect with nature, which is crucial both for wellbeing and inspiring people to care about our natural world.

Over 121 known natural remedies that are found in the rainforest can be used as herbal remedies for human health problems, and there is potential for humans to find more remedies and even cures within forest ecosystems.

How bad is the problem?

Copaifera L. tree has many uses including using the oil as a biodiesel

If the current rate of deforestation continues, the world’s forests could be gone in 100 years and around 80 percent have already been cleared. It is thought that around 150,219 square kilometres of forest are lost every year, which equates to around 48 football pitches every minute. Promisingly, however, the overall net rate of forest loss is beginning to slow.

Brazil is the country with the highest deforestation rates, and its Atlantic coastline is thought to have lost around 90 to 95 percent of its trees. Only 20 percent of the world’s forests are legally protected and due to poor law enforcement, they are still victims of illegal activities.

While deforestation in tropical countries continues, there are some countries in the Northern Hemisphere which are gaining forest cover, although these forest types do not have the capacity to store as much carbon as rainforests.

Deforestation in the United Kingdom

The United Kingdom was once covered in a matrix of natural habitats including forests, scrubland, grasslands and wetlands, and was home to a multitude of wildlife. Over time, more natural habitats were converted for farmland and arable land, grazing animals were introduced as a food source and the population of the United Kingdom began to grow. Grazing animals were able to enter forests, feeding on the young saplings and reducing the forest’s potential for new growth.

Following the invasion of Romans then the Vikings, the UK’s forest cover was at an all-time low due to extensive logging for fuel and building materials and only highly fragmented forest areas remained. Wildlife had also been severely depleted as fires had been set to remove bears or wolves, which were seen to be a threat to humans. Certain areas of managed forest land remained to supply the need for timber in the UK, but after imports of Scandinavian timber became extremely cheap and the economic importance of these forests diminished, farmers were more inclined to allow their cattle to graze in them, causing problems for regrowth.

When commercial forestry began again, non-native species were planted in monocultures, which had an extreme lack of biodiversity. These commercial tree species created a dense canopy which allowed very little light to penetrate through to the ground, preventing new growth of saplings or scrub. Today, the UK’s forests are managed in a more sustainable way by the Forestry Commission and native forests have been restored in some areas, however, just small, isolated pockets of native woodland remain, and have extremely low levels of biodiversity compared to what they once had. Since 1930, we have lost over 30 percent of our natural woodland and in the Scottish Highlands just one percent of woodland remains. In the 2016 State of Nature Report, the UK was found to be 189th out of 218 surveyed countries on the Biodiversity Intactness Index (BII), which assesses how damaged nature is.

Thankfully, there is a rising rewilding movement across the United Kingdom, led by numerous conservation organisations, with the aim of regenerating lost native habitats and reintroducing species such as Eurasian beavers and pine martens. Traditional forest management techniques such as coppicing have been implemented, which encourage a mixture of age and species within a habitat, increasing diversity and natural hierarchy. With over 75 percent of land in the United Kingdom being managed for food production, there is an emphasis on the farming community to manage their land in a nature-friendly manner, and many farms are now introducing hedgerows and wildflower meadows onto their land. Due to the population of grazers continuing to increase in the absence of top predators, certain areas also have culling operations to prevent overgrazing of grasslands and forests by deer. The forest cover in the United Kingdom is currently 12 percent, much lower than the European Union Average of 38 percent, but with rewilding and connectivity initiatives being implemented across the country, this cover will hopefully begin to increase.

What is being done to help?

A woman holds a sapling that will be planted in a reforestation area in Tigray, Ethiopia

Despite the understandable doom and gloom surrounding deforestation, the net rate of loss is gradually decreasing, despite the total area cleared increasing, and certain countries are actually creating more forests than they are losing.

Initiatives to curb illegal logging are being implemented in many areas of the world, such as the Forestry Stewardship Council accreditation which is given to products that use sustainable wood. In November 2016 the European Union introduced the Forest Law Governance and Trade (FLEGT) licence which ensures that forest products are sustainable, protecting tropical areas and guaranteeing that export taxes have been paid in full, helping to support the industry. Reforming the trade of timber is crucial to halting illegal and unsustainable logging and while achieving zero net deforestation may seem a long way away, one day it could be achieved. The United Nations Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries (REDD+) framework which assists developing countries in capacity-building to prevent the negative effects of deforestation has been extremely effective in reducing net deforestation in many areas, providing incentives for nations to protect their forests while safeguarding the rights of local communities and indigenous peoples.

Year on year, more of the world’s forests are legally protected from development or logging, and although laws are often not enforced, it sends a very clear message that our natural habitats must be treasured. The effectiveness of protected areas has been proven in some areas, and many species have bounced back from the brink of extinction because of it, such as the lowland gorilla. The increase of the ecotourism industry is discouraging illegal logging in many areas throughout the world by providing people with an alternative livelihood, and encouraging them to protect their forest. There are also many initiatives to encourage the use of alternative fuel other than logs or charcoal, such as Bushblok which utilises thickened thorn bushes that spread rapidly and can be harmful to wildlife.

Regeneration and wildlife corridor creation projects have been implemented by many governments and conservation organisations with the aim of reversing the issues that have been caused by fragmentation, allowing migration and movement. Creation of wildlife corridors is extremely important in the conservation of the world’s forests and species and will be key in recovering biodiversity levels. In some areas forest replanting to create wildlife corridors is not possible, and therefore under- and overground tunnels have been created with much success, such as in the Banff National Park in Alberta, Canada which has the most animal crossing structures in the world.

Putting a stop to deforestation would help to protect much of the world’s wildlife, mitigate climate change and allow people who rely on the forest for culture and subistence to continue their way of life.

What can we do to help?

  • Eat less meat and more plants. It takes almost 20 times less land to feed someone on a plant-based diet, and much less water too.
  • Only buy sustainably sourced forest products which are supported by the Forestry Stewardship Council or other similar organisations.
  • Rather than buying gold or diamond jewellery, source items that have been made from alternative materials such as glass or recycled plastic.
  • Use less paper by always using both sides when printing or drawing and read the newspaper online.
  • If you consume any household or food products that contain palm oil, ensure that it is sustainable by asking the producer or checking for an RSPO logo.
  • Reduce, reuse, recycle. Limiting your consumption of any forest products will have a direct impact on reducing deforestation.
  • Offset your carbon by contributing to an offsetting scheme that finances renewable energy and forestry operations.
  • Make your garden wildlife-friendly so that any displaced wildlife are able to live and thrive within it.
  • Help to protect forests around the world by supporting the wrk of conservation charities and getting involved with their campaigns.
  • Spread your knowledge to your friends and family and encourage them to take steps towards saving the world's forests too.

More information

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Glossary

Boreal
Areas at high northern latitudes surrounding the North Pole.
Coppicing
A traditional form of woodland management in which trees are cut close to the base of the trunk. Re-growth occurs in the form of many thin poles. Coppiced woodlands are cut in this way on rotation, producing a mosaic of different stages of re-growth.
Deciduous
A plant that sheds its leaves at the end of the growing season.
Inbreeding depression
The reduction in viability, birth weight, and fertility that occurs in a population after one or more generations of inbreeding (interbreeding among close relatives).
Monocultures
The cultivation of a single plant species over a given area.