Deforestation in Madagascar.
All the forest is gone.
PICTURES: Deforestation

WHY ARE RAINFORESTS BEING DESTROYED?    Click here for more detailed information about rainforests!

Every year an area of rainforest the size of New Jersey is cut down and destroyed. The plants and animals that used to live in these forests either die or must find a new forest to call their home. Why are rainforests being destroyed?

Humans are the main cause of rainforest destruction. We are cutting down rainforests for many reasons, including:

  • wood for both timber and making fires;
  • agriculture for both small and large farms;
  • land for poor farmers who don’t have anywhere else to live;
  • grazing land for cattle;
  • pulp for making paper;
  • road construction; and
  • extraction of minerals and energy.
Rainforests are also threatened by climate change **, which is contributing to droughts in parts of the Amazon and Southeast Asia. Drought causes die-offs of trees and dries out leaf litter, increasing the risk of forest fires, which are often set by land developers, ranchers, plantation owners, and loggers.

In 2005 and 2010 the Amazon experienced the worst droughts ever recorded. Rivers dried up, isolating communities, and millions of acres burned. The smoke caused widespread health problems, interfered with transportation, and blocked the formation of rain clouds, while the burning contributed huge amounts of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, worsening the effects of climate change. Meanwhile, Indonesia has experienced several severe droughts in recent decades. The worst occurred in 1982-1983 and 1997-1998 when millions of acres of forest burned.


RAINFOREST DEFORESTATION PHOTOS



** The vast majority of scientists believe that human activities are contributing to climate change.


By Rhett Butler

Date published: June 24, 2004 | Last updated: March 21, 2014