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A deforested area

Deforestation is when forests are destroyed by cutting trees (logging) and not replanting them. The most common reason is to clear the land to make farms and ranches. They also cut trees for firewood and lumber and to make room for cities. Deforestation destroys the habitat of many animals, leading to their death. The loss is more severe in so called primary forests, which are forests that have yet been untouched by humans. Deforestation also releases sequestered carbon.

Restoring trees in deforested places is called reforesting.

Causes of deforestation

Land has other uses besides growing trees. The biggest uses of land that was once forested are for farming and ranching. Some land is also used for roads and buildings, especially in urban areas. As the population grows, people need to remove more trees. They also use the wood from the trees as lumber to make buildings and other things, or they burn the trees as firewood.

Forests have the following functions:

  • regulation of the water cycle
  • production of soil
  • providing habitat for animals
  • providing most of our oxygen
  • maintain the oxygen and carbon dioxide (CO2)
  • balance in the atmosphere
  • regulation of temperature
  • prevention of soil erosion
  • tree diseases [1]

Forests are often planted to protect against natural disasters. When forests are lost, very often the soil they protected is also lost. This loss of soil is called erosion.

Trees are also important for carbon sequestration. When the trees burn or rot, the carbon in them returns to the atmosphere in the form of carbon dioxide. Since carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas, deforestation causes global warming. Tropical deforestation is responsible for about 20% of world greenhouse gas emissions.[2]

In 2020, a team of scientists studied worldwide deforestation efforts and found they were not working. They said the idea of everyone working toward the same goal had to change because different groups of people had different reasons for cutting down forests.[3] [4]


  1. (in en-US) Deforestation Around The World -. Retrieved 2017-12-12. 
  2. "Fondation Chirac » Deforestation and desertification". 
  3. (may 25, 2020). "Why are we still failing to stop deforestation?". Press release. Retrieved May 26, 2020. 
  4. Claude A. Garcia; Sini Savilaakso; René W. Verburg; Victoria Gutierrez; Sarah J. Wilson; Cornelia B. Krug; Marieke Sassen; Brian E. Robinson et al. (May 22, 2020). The Global Forest Transition as a Human Affair. One Earth. doi:10.1016/j.oneear.2020.05.002 . Retrieved May 26, 2020. 

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