Excessive logging causes deforestation which is extremely detrimental to the environment. The majority of large scale logging takes place in the rainforest. Rainforests contain 50%-90% of all living organisms, 50 million organisms that can only survive in a tropical rainforest environment, and 90% percent of our evolutionary heritage. (many primate species) All of these organisms are at great risk due to the current logging and deforestation trends.
Trees help fight global warming by being “carbon sinks.” They store large amounts of carbon that would otherwise be expelled into the atmosphere, and they greatly improve the quality of the air. Without these trees, all life is more vulnerable to climate change and pollution.
In all climate zones, logging and deforestation causes erosion. Erosion leads to unstable soils that can potentially be dangerous for humans to build on. The soils are stripped of their nutrients and can become unusable for any endeavor. Erosion also leads to increased flood risk.
Students walk through an site where illegal logging took place:
We can see the negative effects of logging a whole area of all of the trees realize that it is probably bad. It opens the land up to a lot more wind and rain and this leads to erosion, which then affects surrounding lands. The animals that lived in the plot have to move away or die duirng the cutting; they now have no home.
We should also consider secondary impacts. Roads are typically built to access the logging area. This destroys even more habitat, whether it is the same forest or a different type of habitat in the area. The trucks that are used to remove the trees run on diesel or gasoline and release emissions into the air. Chainsaws also run on gas. The secondary impacts are also very bad for the environment.
Trees have a useful lifetime. If they are allowed to grow old and die, they will renourish the forest, but the carbon they sequestered will be released back to the environment again. However, if you harvest the tree and build something useful and valuable out of it, that carbon will remain sequestered for a very long time: consider a Stradivarus violin, for example.
It is easy to think of all logging as bad, and certainly it has externalities just as any activity does. However, today’s logging practices waste almost none of a tree, once taken. There are loggers that speciallize in “recycling” trees that have to be taken down in the urban environment, for one reason or antoher. and these practices alleviate some logging practices: no roads have to be built, for example.
Responsible loggers will take the worst trees first, the ones that are twins, twisted, bent, or doomed by larger trees overhanging them. This leaves the best genetic specimens to propagate. They will also replant more trees than they take, and through proper forest management such as pruning they can encourage (reamining) trees to grow faster and larger, thus sequestering more carbon.
As a separate issue, farming practices have improved to the point that land once used has gone fallow and reverted to forest. It is not the same as the old growth original forest, but it is ofrest just the same, and some areas now have more forest than they had in the 1930’s, for example.
Wildlife habitat and hardwood floors each have their place, their price, and their value. Trees are a renewable resource, as long as we use them renewably, so it is important to study and learn what the best possible balance is between use and abuse of our forest resources.
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