The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) estimates that deforestation contributes nearly 20% of the overall greenhouse gases (GHG) entering the atmosphere (see their news release). The IPCC lists GHGs as the cause for anthropogenic global warming (AGW).
So, what is deforestation exactly?
The people blogging at Geography Blog say:
Deforestation is the logging ot[sic, I think ot should be “or”] burning of trees in forested areas.
No, it’s not that. Next?
Wikipedia says Deforestation is:
No, that’s what the other team said, you just spelled it right. Thank you for playing. Definitions matter. There is one more step before deforestation has occurred. Next?
The Free Dictionary defines Deforestation as:
The cutting down and removal of all or most of the trees in a forested area. Deforestation can erode soils, contribute to desertification and the pollution of waterways, and decrease biodiversity through the destruction of habitat.
Nice, an elegantly phrased yet incorrect definition and editorializing based on its disingenuous supposition. No wonder people think timber harvesting is a pact with darkness. Next?
Let’s have a look at the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) definition in their world Forest Resource Assessment in 2000, On Definitions Of Forest And Forest Change:
Deforestation is the conversion of forest to another land use or the long-term reduction of tree canopy cover below the 10% threshold … Deforestation implies the long-term or permanent loss of forest cover. Such a loss can only be caused and maintained through a continued man-induced or natural perturbation.
That’s it. The FAO nails it by defining deforestation as the conversion of forestland to another land use.
Logging and burning of stands of trees have occurred for a long time; for logging, we’re talking a couple thousand years and for fires we’re talking about as long as there has been fire and forests. The FAO rightly says, “to determine whether the removal of trees from an area is a deforestation it is necessary to predict the future development for the area.”
As a forester, I have seen the before-and-after of tree cutting and I have watched forests over decades. I support conserving trees. I also support harvesting trees responsibly. We need to grow more trees. And then we need to use the wood we grow as a substitute for metal and plastics wherever possible.