The FAO, or the Food and Agriculture Organization, classifies deforestation as “the conversion of forest to another land use or the long-term reduction of the tree canopy cover below the minimum 10 percent threshold,” a number higher than 10% is forest degradation. The difference between deforestation and forest degradation is the amount of damage done and whether or not the forest can recover.
Deforestation is caused by clear cutting, forest conversion for permanent agriculture and pastures, large-scale shifting cultivation (such as the slash-and-burn technique where understory is cleared after cutting down the trees and left to dry. Once dried, the area is burned and a cash crop is planted), urbanization, dam construction, chemical defoliants and volcanic eruptions and wildfires.
Degradation is caused by most form of logging, small-scale shifting cultivation, over-grazing, small scale mining and associated pollution, over-harvesting of wood and non-wood forest products, fragmentation from small roads, wildfires that burn the leaf litter but not the canopy, over-hunting, invasive species, pollution from the air, oil or acid rain, storm damage and extreme drought. Because logging most often falls under degradating, the FAO doesn’t include it in deforestation statistics and thus rates are considerably higher than deforestation rates.
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