Asked in Global WarmingDeforestation and Habitat LossRainforestsForests
What happens if forests are cut down?
September 13, 2011 11:58AM
Disadvantages to Removing Forests
Rainforests represent a valuable and usually irreplaceable habitat for wildlife. But beyond that, trees control erosion and soil runoff, provide a buffer against excessive evaporation, and return oxygen to the atmosphere. The immediate effects of deforestation are loss of wildlife and of some soil and water resources.
Advantages to Timber Harvesting
When forests are cut down, the carbon that is stored in the trees is more or less permanently sequestered in the lumber, and will not return to the atmosphere, to form carbon dioxide, for many, many years. Meanwhile, the lumber company that cut the forest replants the trees, so they will have more trees to cut down in 20 years or so. As long as the land is kept covered with young, actively-growing trees, carbon dioxide absorption continues at a fast pace. And as long as the trees are harvested, rather than allowed to die and rot, all that carbon is sequestered, rather than released back into the atmosphere.
On the other hand, if we leave the forests alone, and the trees die in the wild, they will rot. And when they rot, they will release all that carbon into the atmosphere, as carbon dioxide. Thus wasting all the carbon sequestration potential of the forest.