The world’s forests provide an essential tool against the battle of global warming and climate change. Carbon sequestered in trees is less carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Forests that are protected represent emissions that won’t play a role either. However, the global forests face mounting challenges that have translated into millions of acres of lost forest.
A study published in the July 2011 issue of Global Change Biology provide a startling look at the losses experienced in Southeast Asia. Between 2000 and 2010, the region had an approximate 1 percent yearly decline in forests. Losses range from 2.4 percent in Indonesian New Guinea to a whooping 23.7 percent in Sumatra.
Deforestation in the United States
The United States is hardly innocent when it comes to deforestation. Over 300 million acres of forest have been cleared for agriculture since the 1600s. The same threats persist, including urbanization, agriculture and natural disasters. The recent wildfires in Colorado show how vulnerable these resources are.
New data from the U.S. Forest Service show a grimmer prospect for the nation’s forests. Researchers estimate that with current trends, the United States is on track to lose 3 percent of the 1997 forest area. Declines are projected for both private and industry forests.
The Role of the Economy
While the reasons for deforestation may have changed, the state of the global economy may also have an effect. Recently, Indonesia has begun investigating allegations that a palm oil company engaged in illegal forest clearing despite the existence of the 2011 moratorium on new forest concessions.
Forests in the United States face pressure as well from a growing population, with an increased demand for land for urban, residential and other uses. Despite the beneficial role that forests play in global warming, other factors may ultimately decide their fate.
The fact is clear that economic challenges are changing how natural resources are viewed and consequently, how they are used. With negative effects already documented in agriculture, it is little wonder that forests too would suffer in the battle of economics versus conservation. The survival instinct may be too formidable an enemy of the environment.