Save the Forests
By: Tina Hayes
The woods and forests around the world are rapidly disappearing. These natural beauties provide shade from the heat, shelter from a storm, a home to birds and small mammals, and convert carbon dioxide into oxygen. Humans continually tear down these trees to build houses, shopping malls, businesses, and to transform this resource into mulch, building material, heating material, and paper. The wildlife that is dependent on trees must move with the loss of their homes. Many of these creatures are sensitive to chance and may not adapt to the new surroundings. Humans and animals are reliant on the benefits of trees, without trees, the world would not exist.
What is a forest? Many dictionaries define a forest as a dense group of trees and underbrush covering a large area. A wood is a smaller variation of a forest. Rainforests are forests in regions that accumulate a large amount of rain every year. Some dictionaries say a minimum of 80 inches, some say 100 inches. The two types of rainforests include tropical and temperate. Tropical rainforests grow in areas around the equator and are the most ecological rich of all forests. Temperate rainforests grow in North America, northeastern Asia, and central and western Europe. The biomes of temperate forests constantly change. These forests have four distinct seasons. Boreal forests represent the largest terrestrial biome and are found in areas that have short summers and long winters. Forests are further categorized as “Natural” or “Frontier.” Natural meaning not affected by human activity and frontier forests meaning relatively undisturbed by human activity and large enough to maintain its biodiversity (GreenFacts, 2007).
The textbook for this class gave plenty information on forests. Forests assist in lessening the impact of global warming, tree roots assist in reducing erosion and mudslides, protect watersheds in addition to removing impurities from water. The textbook also illustrates the different types of forestry management: sustainable and monoculture. Sustainable forestry plants different types of trees at different times. In order for this system to work effectively, cooperation from all interested parties such as loggers, farmers, and all levels of government, to mention a few. A monoculture only plants one variety of tree and plants at the same time (Burg & Hager, 2007).
The problem today is all the forests around the world are disappearing. According to Greenpeace:
A quarter of the forest lost in the last 10,000 years has been destroyed in the last 30 years. Forest loss has a direct link to loss of biodiversity. The current extinction rate of plant and animal species is around 1,000 times faster than it was in pre-human times – and this will increase to 10,000 times faster by 2050. (Greenpeace International, 2007)
The reasons for this mass deforestation are mining, logging, population, agriculture expansion, and cattle ranching. As a result, the land loses its nutrients and the process repeats itself, leaving the land for cattle grazing (Burg & Hager, 2007).
These forests are home for many types of animals. Tropical forests contain mammals, reptiles, insects, birds, and amphibians. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, also known as World Conservation Union, is a dedicated organization that educates the world on the environmental issues and offers solutions to these issues. Every year this organization publishes a list of endangered species, many of these species live in tropical rainforests, such as the Golden Lion Tamarind monkey (Ignatova (Gray), 2009). Some of these animals are so critically endangered; one can only see them in a zoo. Temperate forests are home to animals such as bears, deer, squirrels, and birds like the Bald Eagle.
I have the pleasure of knowing Amy Greeson; she and I were classmates in high school. Amy is a pharmacist seeking new forms of natural medicines. Her company, The Healing Seekers, dedicates their time to finding natural cures to today’s ailments. Most of these healing plants grow in tropical rainforests. Some examples of these discoveries are using saliva from a Gila monster to treat diabetes, tree bark to treat breast cancer, and treating infections with tree sap. The floras in the rainforests are just as endangered as the wildlife. The Amazon is vital to her research, as she explains in one of her educational videos entitled “The Amazon, Protect It,” ‘Losing one hectare could result in the possible loss of 644 species of trees and 1000s of insects, plants, birds, and animals.’ Most of the medicines used today are made from the plants and fungi of these forests, and scientists have studied only one half of one percent of these higher plants for medicinal value (Greeson, 2010).
The Act to Save America’s Forests was introduced to Congress in 1996 with two revisions since 2008 and reintroduction planned for the 2009-2010 Congress. This Act ended clear-cutting on federal lands, banning logging in critical forest areas, areas with no road access and restoring the natural biomes in forests not part of core protection (Save Americas Forests, 2009). With careful planning and cooperation from all levels of government, the forests around world can be saved.
The current process of rainforest deforestation needs to reverse immediately. The first stage to reverse this destruction is proper agricultural education. Teaching farmers how to preserve the nutrients in the soil to maintain higher crop yields is essential. Using natural fertilizers and converting biomass into biogas will assist in restoring these nutrients into the soil, and reduce the need for using wood for heating fuel. Crop rotation is also a key factor in restoring the land.
The government should designate lands for farm use only and areas for cattle or other farm animal ranching. After the designation of these areas are set, start quarantining area for rainforest restoration and use the same process in restoring the soil. To jump start restoration, transplanting soil from undisturbed areas of the forest may be used. To protect the forest from further damage, soil transplanting must start on the outlying edges of the forest and removing no more than five square feet of soil per every 50 square feet of forest. Mixing the soil harvested from the forest with the existing soil with organic fertilizers will maintain balance. The second step of the restoration process involves planting. Planting fast growing, sturdy trees in the beginning will allow rapid restoration.
After the trees are planted and established for a minimum of six months, the next step involves transplanting the natural flora from the forest. Harvesting flora from areas of thick vegetation will minimize the stress to the plants, the insects, and wildlife dependent on that species of plant. Careful planning must involve how the trees, plants, and wildlife interact with one another. If an insect feeds off a particular tree, or if a species of flora is not compatible with a sapling tree, taking care not to endanger the tree prior to its establishment. For example, in the United States, the Morning Glory is a beautiful creeping vine. If left unattended, Morning Glories can smother plants and trees. Repeating this process in stages will heal the rainforests.
Similar efforts are beginning to heal the temperate forests in the United States. The Act to Save America’s Forests should ban all clear-cutting harvesting methods on all forests and not only the federally owned lands. Clear-cutting is arguably a cost-effective way of harvesting trees, but the price of losing forests is immeasurable. Trees need time to grow; the side of a mountain stripped of trees cannot regenerate effectively. Enforcing selective harvesting and reducing the dependence on wood is an essential for restoring the temperate forests. As recommended for the rainforest restoration, the same principles should take place. Restricting or quarantining access to forests is the first step. Once an area has been quarantined, it may not be touched for minimum of 15 years. Cities can reduce their carbon footprint on the environment by reusing and revitalizing abandoned buildings instead of clearing small woods to expand the city boundaries. Leaders need to make wise decision regarding the environment and encourage citizens to participate in conservation efforts such as recycling.
The forests in Alaska, Canada, and Russia are boreal forests. These forests are disappearing faster than the rainforests of Brazil (Burg & Hager, 2007). The Canadian government must change the harvesting standards for their boreal forests. Greenpeace estimates of the forests currently used for logging, 90% of forest is clear-cut; more than 10,000 hectares annually. Only a small fraction of Canada’s forests are protected against logging (Greenpeace, 2008). In order for the boreal forests to regenerate, strict logging regulations must occur. Unfortunately, jobs will be eliminated. The Canadian government should follow the efforts of the Alaska Forest Association. Only 10% of the Tongass National Forest is used for harvesting. Unassisted regeneration of trees occurs rapidly in Alaska, growing approximately four feet per year (Alaska Forest Association, 2003).
The healing and restoration of the forests around the world will take many years and dedication to succeed. The initial efforts today will impact the future, but these efforts are ongoing. The main challenge of the restoration process is enforcement. Governments need to understand that the forests will reduce the greenhouse effect. An effective punishment is requiring any person found destroying the forest must take part in the restoration process for a minimum of two years. World leaders must work together for the sustainment plan to work.
Through conservation, restoration, and recycling resources the forest will survive and maintain biodiversity. All terrestrial life on Earth is dependent on the forests. The forests provide homes for endangered flora and fauna. Trees provide oxygen, absorb carbon dioxide, act as a natural water filtration, nourish the soil, and prevent erosion. Humans take trees for granted. Scientists are beginning to understand the secrets the forests have locked away. Once this resource is destroyed, it will not return unless appropriate action is taken now. When a person takes medicine to fight off an infection, he or she may not care that cure was found in the disappearing rainforest; the desire is for the infection to go away. Dedicated scientists and conservationists are starting the restoration process, humans must follow suit and continue their efforts. This weekend, plant a tree, plant a garden, recycle, and organize a neighborhood cleanup. Planet Earth is calling, is anyone listening?
- Alaska Forest Association. (2003). Forest Facts, Alaska Forest Association. Retrieved on 3 October 2010 from http://www.akforest.org/facts.html
- Burg, L. R., & Hager, M. C. (2007). Visualizing environmental science. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.
- GreenFacts. (2007, October 23). Facts on Forests and Forestry. Retrieved on 30 September 2010 from http://www.forestfacts.org/1_3/forests_1.htm#0
- Greenpeace International. (2007, April 2). Our disappearing forests. Retrieved on 30 September 2010 from http://www.greepeace.org/international/campaigns/forests/our-disappearing-forests/
- Greenpeace. (2008, March 24). Unsustainable Logging. Retrieved on 3 October 2010 from http://www.greanpeace.org/canada/en/campaigns/boreal/Resources/Fact-sheets/Unsustainable-logging.html
- Greeson, A. (2010). Meet Amy Greeson. Retrieved on 3 October 2010 from http://www.healingseekers.com
- Ignatova (Gray), I. (2009, November). Endangered Animals Victims of Hostile Human Actions.. Retrieved on 3 October 2010 from http://www.tropical-rainforest-animals.com/Endangered-Animals.html
- Save Americas Forests. (2009). Congress – The Act to Save America’s Forests. Retrieved on 3 October 2010 from http://www.saveamericasforests.org/congress/congress.html