The forest problem

The forest problem

By Cristian Frers

Forests play a fundamental role in climate regulation, maintenance of water sources and flows, and soil conservation. For this reason, the jungles and other forests are possibly the most important natural heritage but also the most threatened and predated by the hand of man.

Forests are one of the most valuable ecosystems in the world. They contain more than sixty percent of the planet's biodiversity which, in addition to its intrinsic value, has multiple other social and economic values: from the important ecological functions of the forest in terms of soil and watershed protection, to the pecuniary economic value. and non-pecuniary of the many products that can be extracted from the forest. From the forests we not only obtain a series of goods and services essential for our survival such as: plant and animal food, wood, medicines and many other products.

Forests play a fundamental role in climate regulation, maintenance of water sources and flows, and soil conservation. For this reason, the jungles and other forests are possibly the most important natural heritage but also the most threatened and predated by the hand of man.

When a forest is cleared and the land is used, for example, for agriculture or livestock, the ability of the earth's surface to control its own climate and chemical composition is greatly diminished.

One of the greatest threats to human life on Earth is deforestation. Stripping the planet of its forests and other ecosystems such as its soil, has an effect similar to that of burning the skin of a human being. Forests help maintain ecological balance and biodiversity, limit erosion in watersheds, and influence variations in weather and climate. They also supply rural communities with various products, such as wood, food, fuel, fodder, fibers, or organic fertilizers.

Deforestation is not a recent process in Argentina. For some time our forest ecosystems began to receive human pressure due to the extraction of wood for different uses. This trend has deepened in recent years due to the advance of the agricultural frontier.

At the same time, we Argentines began to perceive that this is a serious problem. A report reveals that Argentina loses 250,000 hectares of forests each year, and that the northern provinces of Salta and Chaco are the most affected by indiscriminate logging.

According to this document, deforestation is a process with very serious impacts that has deepened in recent years, mainly as a result of the advance of the agricultural frontier.
It is only in recent years that we have begun to realize that this is a really serious problem.

According to statistics, in 2002 it was estimated that Argentina had 33 million hectares of forest, and since that date about 250 thousand hectares have been lost annually.

Environmentalists do not hesitate to describe this loss as overwhelming, and affirm that in some specific regions deforestation is advancing at even faster rates.

According to this study, in the so-called Chaco Seco region 70% of the native forests were eliminated, in benefit of agricultural production.
Another region that is especially threatened by logging companies is the Yungas jungle, which also includes territories in the provinces of Salta, Jujuy and Tucumán, constituting one of the richest areas in biodiversity in the American continent.

The report assures that these impacts on the environment explain the most recent natural disasters that have affected several Argentine provinces: great droughts, floods and unprecedented increases in pollution levels.

The causes of deforestation can be divided into two, the direct causes and the indirect causes.

Among the main direct causes are:

1) The logging of forests. Logging, when carried out for industrial purposes, is carried out on a large scale, becoming one of the main causes of deforestation worldwide.
2) The replacement of forests for agriculture and livestock. The forest floor is a poor soil for such practices, so that after a few years it becomes a totally degraded land.
3) The urbanization.
4) Mining and oil activity.
5) The construction of infrastructure, hydroelectric dams where wooded areas, roads, among others, are flooded.
6) Forest fires.
7) Acid rain.

Indirect causes are those that make direct causes exist. Some of them are:

A) Production and consumption models, which create a great demand for wood, mainly in developed countries.
B) Bad economic and social policies, some of which promote the replacement of forests by large-scale agriculture and livestock in order to supply the international market, and others instead force many poor peasants to destroy the forest in order to cultivate the land and survive.
C) The uncontrolled industrialization that causes pollution and causes acid rains.

The consequences of deforestation are completely negative from every point of view.
Deforestation implies the disappearance of animal and plant species, due to the loss of their habitat. It negatively affects water conservation, causing floods or droughts. It causes soil erosion, as well as an increase in its temperature. As a consequence, the ecological balance is broken. All this harms nearby populations and activities such as agriculture, livestock and fishing.

It also causes an imbalance in the hydrological cycle and in the global climate. The greenhouse effect increases with deforestation, since on the one hand, the number of trees available to capture carbon dioxide from the atmosphere decreases, and on the other hand, when forests are burned or cut down, they release the carbon they already have accumulated in the form of carbon dioxide, thus, the concentration in the atmosphere of this compound increases, being the one that contributes the most to the greenhouse effect. Deforestation is estimated to make up one third of all the carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere by human activity. Deforestation and climate change are thus closely related.

From a social and cultural point of view, for indigenous peoples and communities that inhabit and depend on forests, deforestation means the loss of their source of survival, and brings with it malnutrition, increased diseases, emigration and even possible disappearance of the community itself.

Forest programs in each country must involve all stakeholders and integrate the conservation and sustainable use of biological resources. In addition, national forestry research capacities should be enhanced and a network created to facilitate information exchange, promote research and disseminate the results of the different disciplines. It is necessary to carry out studies that analyze the causes of deforestation and environmental degradation in each country, and cooperation on issues of technology transfer related to forests, both North-South and South-South, should be promoted through public and private investments. , joint ventures, among others.

On the other hand, the best assessment technologies are required to obtain reliable estimates of all forest services and goods, especially those in general trade. Improving market access for forest goods and services by reducing tariff and non-tariff barriers to trade is another possible way, as well as the need to make more effective use of existing financial mechanisms to generate new resources. of financing nationally and internationally. Investment policies should be aimed at attracting national, local and foreign investment for sustainable forest-based industries, reforestation, conservation and protection of forests.

* Cristian Frers - Senior Technician in Environmental Management and Senior Technician in Social Communication

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