The Link Between Deforestation and Global Warming

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The common focal point for the global warming debate is the emission of fossil fuel., that often overshadow the other significant variables such as deforestation. Deforestation and climate change are interlinked and complicated, yet significant, deforestation itself contribute approximately 12-20% greenhouse emissions globally (Van Der Werf et al., 2009). This blog aims to elucidate the intricate connections that subsist between the deforestation and climate change, emphasising the necessity to conserve forest on the priority basis as a part of more aggressive strategies to tackle the effects of the climate changing.

How Does Deforestation Contribute to Global Warming?

Deforestation is a substantial contributor to the green house emission and contributor approximately 12-20% of all greenhouse gas emissions (Van der Werf et al., 2009). The whole process of deforestation involves the clearing of forests for various purposes such as agriculture, urban development, and timber extraction. Below are some examples how this activity contribute to the global warming and effecting climate cycle:

Carbon Emissions: Trees are called the natural carbon Sinks, as they absorb carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere during the process of photosynthesis and store it as carbon in their biomass i.e., wood, leaves, roots and help to reduce the overall concentration of the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. (Pan, 2011).

The atmospheric release of stored carbon occurs when trees are burned or chopped down, or allowed to decompose, the stored carbon is released back into the atmosphere as CO2, contributing to greenhouse gas concentrations (Malhi et al., 2016, Pan et al., 2011). Deforestation also affects the regional and global water cycles. Evapotranspiration, which forms clouds and causes rainfall, is facilitated by trees. Their absence brings in a reduction in cloud cover and drier weather, which can have a warming effect (Spracklen et al., 2012). As a result of deforestation and degradation, some tropical forests now emit more carbon than they capture, turning them from a carbon ‘sink’ into a carbon source. For example, the south-eastern part of the Amazon Rainforest is now considered a net carbon source by scientists (

Change in Albedo Effect: Solar Energy Absorption: Trees have great potential in minimizing environmental problems such as thermal stress. In this respect, canopy is one major component that can contribute in giving such impact towards microclimatic environment. Shades that are formed by canopy have correlations to foliage geometry which respond significantly towards all microclimate indicators such as solar radiation and wind velocity (Shahidan et al, 2006). When forests are removed, they are often replaced by lighter-colored surfaces, like agricultural lands, which reflect more sunlight back to space, altering the Earth’s albedo (albedo effect) and affecting climate (Bala et al., 2007).

Loss of Biodiversity: Biodiversity loss indicates the reduction in the variety and variability of the lifeforms within an ecosystem, region or the planet. Such loss can include the extinction of species and also a decline in the number of population/ species/genetic variability with species and the destruction and degradation of ecosystems (Cardinale et al., 2021). Factors that cause the loss of biodiversity include habitat destruction, pollution, invasive species, overharvesting, and climate change (Sala et al., 2000). Some common examples of habitat destruction include reforestation, urbanisation, and ecosystem change for agricultural purposes. These activities both directly or indirectly lead to the loss of the habitat for various species.

A diverse ecosystem is generally more resilient and better equipped to handle changes, acting as a natural buffer against climate change (Hooper et al., 2012).  One example of how deforestation leads to the loss of biodiversity is the destruction of habitats for many plant and animal species. The natural equilibrium is upset when trees are removed, and this can lead to the extinction or endangered status of some species.

The loss of biodiversity has significant consequences for ecosystem services, which are the benefits people obtain from ecosystems. These services include provisioning services like food and water, regulating services such as disease control, cultural services, and supporting services such as nutrient cycling (Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, 2005). Global warming due to deforestation disproportionately affects indigenous communities, which rely on forests for their livelihood and cultural practices. This introduces a social justice element into the climate change debate (Adger et al., 2003).  The current rate of extinction is estimated to be tens to hundreds of times higher than the average over the last 10 million years and is predicted to increase further unless action is taken. This represents a global biodiversity crisis, often referred to as the sixth mass extinction (Ceballos et al., 2015).

Mitigation Strategies: Reforestation, or planting trees on previously cleared land, and afforestation, or turning unused ground into forests, are simple yet efficient mitigation techniques (Stavins & Richards, 2005). Encouraging sustainable forest management techniques, such as controlled burns and selective logging, can assist in striking a balance between the need for conservation and the financial advantages of forestry (Nabuurs et al., 2007). More robust international regulations, including REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation), have the objective of providing developing nations with financial incentives to invest in sustainable forestry and minimize deforestation (Angelsen et al., 2009). 

Deforestation contributes considerably to global warming, a fact that is frequently overlooked. Plans for sustainable management and forest protection are crucial components of climate change mitigation strategies. Neglecting this essential element would result in missing out on a crucial piece of the climate puzzle. Sustainable land-use practices, conservation efforts, restoration activities, and policies aiming to mitigate climate change are critical for curbing biodiversity loss. Implementing such actions with a global cooperative approach is essential to preserve biodiversity and maintain ecosystem services for future generations (Díaz et al., 2019).


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