When forests are purposely cleared for roads, urban development, logging, or growing food, this process is called deforestation (via Treehugger). The main culprit is industrial-scale agriculture, including for palm oil, soy, rubber, and cattle ranches. Fires — both intentional and natural — can also cause deforestation.
Forests are home to some of the world’s greatest biodiversity (meaning a variety of species) and help pull in greenhouse gases that would otherwise remain in the Earth’s atmosphere. These carbon sinks retain around 2.6 billion tons of carbon dioxide every year (per Treehugger). But after being burned or cut down, trees off-gas carbon instead of absorbing it.
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