Forest ecosystems play a key role globally, both in tackling climate change – by absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere – and in adaptation to climate change by maintaining ecosystem services and providing livelihood options.
Recent studies have reported that Deforestation or the directly human-induced conversion of forested lands to non-forest lands is estimated to have occurred at the alarming rate of 13 million hectares per year in the period 1990-2005, accounting for 20% of global annual greenhouse gas emissions in the late 1990s and making it the world second largest source of greenhouse gas emissions. Deforestation also includes areas where the “impact of disturbance, over-utilization or changing environmental conditions affects the forest to an extent that it cannot sustain a tree cover above the 10% threshold.”
Forests are critical to the global climate system due to their ability to absorb and store carbon. Carbon loss due to deforestation is estimated to contribute about 17 to 20 % of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions (IPCC, 2007). The loss of forest biomass and oxidation of soil organic carbon through slash-and-burn and subsequent land use releases significant amount of CO2 annually into the atmosphere. Research shows that much of this deforestation occurs in tropical forests found in many developing countries.
The 2017 Philippine Forestry Statistics of the Forest Management Bureau estimates that the total national forest cover is around 7.014 Million has or 23.38% of the country’s total land area of around 30 million hectares.
While the deforestation rate has stabilized and even reversed in some areas, the forest cover is way below the 1934 data of 17.8 million hectares. The forest loss affects the national interest to produce goods and ecosystem services and translates to a substantial contribution to greenhouse gas emissions.
At the country level, the Philippines has commitment to participate in the adjustment of its forest policy to the necessities of climate protection in collaboration with a wide range of actors through the establishment of the Philippine National REDD-Plus Strategy (PRNRPS) which has become integral part of the Philippine Development Plan 2011-2016 and the National Climate Change Action Plan 2011-2028.
The REDD mechanism aims to Reduce Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation by combining forest protection with objectives of climate protection, biodiversity conservation and improvement of local livelihoods. In the recent international discussions, the REDD Plus concept has been expanded to include conservation of forest carbon stocks, sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks.
Causes of Deforestation in the Philippines:
- Urban Construction – Forests are cleared to make way for the expansion of urban areas including urban settlements, commercial establishments, roads, bridges,power plants and others that have major impact on forest life. This results in loss of forest area and massive deforestation.
- Agriculture – conversion of forest into agricultural land for growing crops, building farms, ranches and other lands for agricultural purposes. This includes the slash and burn farming technique (kaingin)commonly practiced in the Philippines.
- Use for Fuel – Trees are cut down to be used as firewood or turned into charcoal, which are used for cooking and heating purposes and as source of income among rural areas.
- Commercial Purposes – Deforestation can also be caused by clearing forests for oil and mining exploitation. Forest fires can occur naturally or in most cases are deliberately acted by man to clear huge forests. This leads to loss of forests and loss of habitat for the local wildlife.
- Illegal Logging – many government agencies are fighting illegal logging to protect the forests. However, any type of logging legal or illegal leads to deforestation. Trees are cut down indiscriminately by logging companies, to fulfill the demands of the wood market. This does not give a chance to the local wildlife and trees to regenerate and sustain themselves which leads to loss of wildlife forever.
Effects of Deforestation on Wildlife and Human Society:
- Erosion – When the soil is exposed to the sun upon deforestation, it becomes very dry and infertile due to the loss of nutrients. When there is rainfall, it washes away the rest of the nutrients, which flow with the rainwater into waterways.
Replanting trees may not help in solving the problems caused by deforestation. By the time the trees mature, the soil will be totally devoid of essential nutrients. As a result, the land will not be suitable for cultivation and will become useless. Large tracts of land will be rendered permanently impoverished due to soil erosion.
- Disruption of the Water Cycle – Trees help maintain the water cycle in various ways. They absorb water through their roots, which is then released into the atmosphere. A large part of the water that circulates in the ecosystem of rainforests, for instance, remains inside the plants.
When these trees are cut down, the climate will get drier in that particular area. The groundwater tables are affected and will soon get depleted. The trees help in prevention of running off of water and help the soil absorb the flowing water. When there are no trees, water just runs off, leaving no chance for the groundwater tables to absorb more water which will eventually lead to reduction in water resources.
- Loss of Biodiversity – Tropical rainforests only take up to 6 percent of the surface area of the Earth, where about 80-90 percent of the entire species of the world exist. Due to massive deforestation, about 50 to 100 species of animals are being lost each day. This leads to the extinction of animals and plants on a massive scale. The animals not only lose their habitat and protective cover, but they are also pushed to extinction.
- Flooding and Drought – Forests can function to absorb and store great amounts of water quickly when there are heavy rains. When forests and trees are cut down, this regulation of the flow of water is disrupted, which leads to alternating periods of flood and then drought in the affected area, leading to increased risks for people living nearby.
- Climate Change – Trees act as a storage place for carbon, since they absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, which is then used to produce carbohydrates, fats, and proteins that make up trees. When deforestation occurs, many of the trees are burnt or they are allowed to rot, which results in releasing the carbon that is stored in them as carbon dioxide. This, in turn, leads to greater concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
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