Forests have a huge impact on the environment. The trees help in balancing the oxygen-carbon dioxide balance of the earth, by absorbing carbon dioxide from the environment and releasing oxygen. Forests regulate temperature of the Earth and rainfall, and thus prevent droughts. The trees impede the velocity of runoff on the soil surface. This thwarts soil erosion and landslides, thereby reducing possibilities of floods. The leaves that fall on the forest ground act as nutrient sources that increase soil fertility. The forests also offer shelter against adverse environmental conditions to diverse forms of wildlife. Moreover, forests are significant not just ecologically but economically as well. Firewood, commercial timbre, gums, raisins, medicines, and other products of industrial use are obtained from forests.
Over-exploitation of forests by humans has been continuing unabated through centuries. Increased urbanization has resulted in mass deforestation. Indiscriminate felling of trees for converting forest-lands into agricultural fields, for industrialization or mining, and overgrazing by domestic animals are all contributing to the loss of this exhaustible natural resource. Diverse forest ecosystems are being converted into high yielding mono-cultural tree plantations.
The lush green rainforests used to cover 14% of the surface of the Earth. Now this value has dwindled to only about 6%. It is anticipated that the remaining rainforests could disappear within the next fifty years.
The consequence is loss of biodiversity. Many species of plants and animals are already extinct. Others are also fading away, due to loss of habitat. Apart from the loss of genetic resources, this also entails loss of essential medicinal herbs and even several aboriginal tribes. Other major impacts include soil erosion, flooding, and desertization.
Perhaps the most severe outcome is global warming due to the greenhouse effect. Increased deforestation has led to the accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, like carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide and chlorofluorocarbon. This is heating up the atmosphere and the temperature of the world is rising. The resultant climate change would affect crop, animal and forest growth. Sea-levels will rise causing devastating floods, and at the same time severe droughts would occur frequently. Agriculture and aquaculture both will suffer. If timely steps are not taken to prevent this, the entire human race will be endangered.
To take a step towards checking this threat to the environment, please visit the following website.