Tropical Deforestation and Its Effect on Global Climate Essay

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Tropical Deforestation and Its Effect on Global Climate


Rainforests are the predominant natural vegetation throughout the wet tropics. The defining characteristics of a tropical rainforest are temperature and rainfall. Wherever temperature is high enough and rainfall heavy and regular enough, there is rainforest (Bagheera, 1996). Tropical rainforests of all kinds once covered approximately 14 percent of the Earth’s surface, more than eight million square miles (Conservation International, 1998); forming an equatorial green belt around the Earth rich in diverse plant and animal species. Humans have already destroyed half of this forest area, with most damage occurring in the last 200 years (Bagheera, 1996). In 1987 alone
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In contrast to destructive practices that profit a few but destroy the forest for all, intact tropical rainforests provide long-term, widely distributed benefits. These benefits include increased biodiversity, protection of wildlife, food, fuel, medicines, building materials, and global climate stabilization (Bagheera, 1996,p.2). Due to the magnitude of tropical deforestation that has occurred, its potential affect on loss of biodiversity and alteration of world climate, this is arguably the most important global conservation issue today (Kricher, 1997).


Global warming and tropical deforestation have a symbiotic relationship, each being a causal factor for the breakdown of the other. For each hectare of forest that is cleared and burned, about 220 tons of carbons are released into the atmosphere (Holloway, 1993). Carbon is released primarily in the form of CO2, carbon dioxide, with the burning of fallen vegetation from cleared forest. In addition, the cleared forest is no longer there to act as a ‘sink’ for carbon dioxide—to take it up in the process of photosynthesis (Kricher, 1997). The build up of carbon dioxide causes sunlight to be trapped in the atmosphere and through the greenhouse effect the Earth’s temperature rises (Myers, 1979). Over the past century the global average temperature has already increased by about half a

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