In parts of the world usually located between latitudes 28 degrees north and south of the equator, averaging 17 degrees Celsius year round, and boasting a large amount of biodiversity and frequent precipitation, lay tropical rainforests. At one point, tropical rainforests covered 14 percent of the earth’s surface, but from a current ecological perspective, the state of deforestation in tropical rainforests has continuously wreaked havoc on an ecosystem that should be protected due to benefits it offers such as stabilizing worldwide climate, maintaining a balanced water cycle, and oxygen. This research paper will illuminate the causes and effects of deforestation in tropical rainforests while examining ecological perspectives of deforestation today.
Deforestation causes major changes in the carbon cycle, resulting in global warming. The clearing of forests causes carbon to be released into the atmosphere. This carbon is stored above and below ground in leaves, branches, stems, and roots of trees.
This major source of CO2 into the atmosphere is a huge consequence of deforestation (Baccini). The carbon cycle is the way carbon circulates through the atmosphere, beginning with the absorption of CO2 by plants. This absorbed carbon then actually makes up the body of the plant, and when the plant respires, decays or is burned, carbon reenters the environment (The Living Rainforest). It can also be absorbed into animals that eat the plant, causing transmission of carbon up the food chain which is eventually released during respiration, and when the animal at the top of the food chain dies (The Living Rainforest). This absorption and reabsorption allows the environment a state of equilibrium, but deforestation, especially through the use of fire completely throws off this natural balance, causing a rise in temperature and ultimately climate change.
From an ecological and governmental perspective, diversity decline can be due to many different factors, including but not limited to institutional failure, inappropriate policies, and human development. Inappropriate policies send groups of poverty-stricken people to coexist near and within these rainforests, causing competition between humans and species of the rainforest. The theory of human development causing diversity decline includes the selfishness of humans as we develop more and more, requiring access to more land that was once tropical rainforest. Due to these factors, tropical forest degradation occurs, emitting carbon at a rate of ~0.5 Pg·y−1, reducing biodiversity, and aiding in forest clearance(Ahrends). This degradation happens due to the need for croplands, timber, minerals, space for cattle ranching, mining and industry, etc. For example, the Ugandan government once had plans to begin deforesting the Maibra Forest so that a sugar plantation may be set up. Uganda’s government had previouslyscheduled plans to remove all protection from 7,100 hectares of the Mabira Reserve (about 25% of the total area) (Grummitt). This threatens the 2.5 million trees that reside in each hectare of space within this rainforest, along with the unique biodiversity. This also threatens a loss of livelihood for over one million people in the area who depend on the forest for their resources, and the economic effects would be exponential to the locals. Endangered species would be greatly affected, and the carbon cycle would be thrown off due to loss of trees and the churning up of carbon from soil and other abiotic and biotic components of the rainforest, increasing temperatures and assisting in global warming.
Deforestation causes reemergence of infectious diseases through many forest species, but in this essay, changes in environment due to deforestation will be discussed in relation to a common transmitter of diseases, anophelines (mosquitos). Transitions in mosquito ecology and human behavior patterns in deforested regions impact the transmission of mosquito-borne diseases such as malaria, Japanese encephalitis, and filariasis (Yasuoka). Each and every process of deforestation affects the circulation of malaria in some way. Junko Yasuoka and Richard Levinsof Harvard School of Public Health demonstrated sixty examples of change in anopheline ecology as a consequence of deforestation and agricultural development, one of these changes occurring after deforestation due to the need for area in Thailand for a sugarcane plantation. The results of the study showed that although the population of An. dirus was depleted due to loss of shady breeding habitats, the population of An. minimus increased greatly due to their preference for sunny breeding habitats. As a result, malaria transmission grew rapidly in this area (Yasuoka). The sixty examples of change demonstrated by Yasuoka and Levin showed that some anopheline species were directly affected by deforestation, some favored the new conditions or were able to adapt to them, and some overran or took the place of other anopheline species. Overall, the increase of sun in the deforested areas became a breeding ground for sun-loving anophelines, increasing the transmission of malaria, yet another devastating effect of deforestation of tropical rainforests.
In conclusion, tropical rainforests all over the world are being depleted due to deforestation, which is the result of excessive need for resources found within the rainforest. With deforestation comes many effects such as changes in the carbon cycle when too much carbon is released into the atmosphere due to the upturn of soil and the burning of trees, causing imbalance and global warming. Unique biodiversity is threatened as well as groups of people forced to reside on the fringes of society near and within these rainforests. Another negative but less discussed effect of deforestation is the transmission of malaria due to species of anophelines favoring sunnier environments due to degradation of trees. For many economic and political reasons, deforestation today cannot be controlled. Studies and appraisals must be made to measure potential impacts of future deforestation in order to reduce the ecological degradation caused by human development and to diminish epidemics of malaria and other negative effects of diversity decline.