Deforestation – incontrovertible evidence from space

Rainforest, Fatu Hiva Island, French Polynesia. Image by Makemake at de.wikipedia, licensed under GNU version 1.2 or later.

Rainforest, Fatu Hiva Island, French Polynesia. Image by Makemake at de.wikipedia, licensed under GNU version 1.2 or later.

Deforestation – it’s a serious problem for a variety of reasons, and now we can see stark evidence of the extent of the problem in some regions of the globe, courtesy of NASA. NASA also have a somewhat disturbing short animation showing progressive deforestation over an area of western Brazil in just 10 years.

For those who haven’t already been subjected to one of my deforestation speeches, the problem isn’t just that it involves tearing (or burning) down adult trees that are pretty to look at. Forests are, as Terry Pratchett puts it, ‘vital biomass oxygenating the planet’, as well as providing homes for a variety of creatures large and small, and harbouring a complex collection of understorey plants, saprophytes, and other plants and fungi that comprise a living ecosystem.

Forests also play a part in maintaining soil health and, well, soil: the destruction of forests can often result in a lot of fertile topsoil simply being blown, or washed, away. This means that what was originally a flourishing and stable ecosystem can quickly become virtually a desert, while the soil that gets washed away clogs rivers and streams, and can desalinate the ocean near the river mouth, which in turn endangers the ocean life in that area.

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