A satellite image of a swirling hurricane Men with gas masks and protective suits on The planetary rover Sojourner A large group of refugees huddled together

 HUMAN
 IMPACT

Floods and
 Dams

Ozone and
 Pollution

Deforestation
 and
 Desertification

Overpopulation





The statistics paint a grim picture. According to the World Resources Institute, more than 80 percent of the Earth’s natural forests already have been destroyed. Up to 90 percent of West Africa’s coastal rain forests have disappeared since 1900. Brazil and Indonesia, which contain the world’s two largest surviving regions of rain forest, are being stripped at an alarming rate by logging, fires, and land-clearing for agriculture and cattle-grazing.

Among the obvious consequences of deforestation is the loss of living space. Seventy percent of the Earth’s land animals and plants reside in forests. But the harm doesn’t stop there. Rain forests help generate rainfall in drought-prone countries elsewhere. Studies have shown that destruction of rain forests in such West African countries as Nigeria, Ghana, and Côte d’Ivoire may have caused two decades of droughts in the interior of Africa, with attendant hardship and famine.

Deforestation may have catastrophic global effects as well. Trees are natural consumers of carbon dioxide—one of the greenhouse gases whose buildup in the atmosphere contributes to global warming. Destruction of trees not only removes these “carbon sinks,” but tree burning and decomposition pump into the atmosphere even more carbon dioxide, along with methane, another major greenhouse gas.

Click on image of man sawing tree down to enter the Effect’s photo gallery


VIDEO:

Costa Rica sets an example of how to slow the destruction of forests by fire and saw.

Real Media Player


VIDEO:

A NASA animation shows the loss of Amazon rain forest near Santa Cruz, Bolivia, comparing the years 1973, 1986, and 1996.

Real Media Player


FAST FACT:

The U.S. State Department estimates that forests four times the size of Switzerland are lost each year because of clearing and degradation.



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