Deforestation Is Terrible for Humans

By StGeorgesUniversity
March 7, 2018

Each year, up to 58,000 square miles of forest disappear due to deforestation.[1] At current rates, the world’s rainforests could be gone in 100 years.[2]

That has dire consequences for people. It’s imperative that our public health officials treat deforestation as a major concern.

Deforestation occurs for many reasons. Farmers and businesses burn swaths of forest to accommodate more crops or cattle.[3] Companies cut down trees for logging operations and urban development.[4]

Deforestation has an outsized impact on the climate.For one, trees absorb huge amounts of carbon dioxide. In a single year, an acre of forest captures twice the CO2 produced by a car annually.[5] Mangrove trees in particular hold a huge amount of carbon.[6] In total, forests hold more than twice the CO2 than exists in the atmosphere.[7] So when trees are cut down and burned, massive quantities of carbon are released.

That’s a double-whammy — it means more carbon in the atmosphere and fewer trees to absorb it.[8] In all, deforestation accounts for at least 15 percent of global carbon emissions.[9]

Chopping down trees also disrupts the water cycle. After it rains, trees help return moisture to the atmosphere.[10] Fewer trees means less rain.

Some countries are already seeing the impacts. In deforested areas in Brazil, the rainy season begins nearly two weeks later, according to an analysis from the University of Virginia. In Africa, rainfall from the Congo basin to the east coast has plummeted 20 percent due to deforestation.[11]

Forests also play a crucial role in supporting biodiversity, which ensures ecosystems can thrive. For every 50 percent reduction in plant biodiversity, the ecosystem’s productivity plummets 10-20 percent.[12]

What’s more, forests hold potential sources of medicines. More than 120 prescription drugs come from rainforest plants. And thus far, scientists have only extensively examined less than 1 percent of plants tropical forests for use in medicine.[13]

Here at St. George’s University, we ensure our students understand that the way we interact with our environment can have sweeping consequences. We utilize a One Health approach, which recognizes that human, animal, and ecosystem health are all connected.[14] So our public health graduates are well-equipped to tackle large-scale issues like deforestation.

Deforestation doesn’t just mean fewer trees. It’s a huge threat to our livelihood. Public health officials must make reducing deforestation a priority.
















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