Tropical rainforests are among the largest forests in the world that contains several species of vegetation and wildlife and it is found in the tropical areas that have very heavy rainfall. Among the ecosystems that are found in the world, the tropical rainforests are the ones with most complex ecosystem that is endowed with high productivity. These forests are found along the narrow zone near the equator where the temperatures are approximately 83 degrees and rains that are above 450 cm per year. These high rainfall and favorable temperatures are the conditions that favor the growth of vegetation and survival of wildlife in these forests. These rainforest support the earth's greatest biodiversity which implies the availability of many chemical compounds and chemical processes in the forests. Structurally, the forests consist of various forms of lives composed of many vegetation layers which make many different species to coexist in a certain level. For instance, the wide range of plant species in the forests attracts the variety of insects, animals, birds and human beings. Examples of places with large rainforests include South America, Asia, Central America, Australia and Africa. Some indigenous people have lived in these forests for many years. They have used the rainforest materials to build their homes and they used many plants and animals as food and medicine. The tropical rainforests are important in the word because most of the scientific researches take place in them. They consume large amount of carbon dioxide and produce much of the oxygen that is used in the word and they play a very significant role in the regulation of the global weather. Due to increase in people's population and industrialization much of the tropical rainforest in Central and South America has been cleared for various types of development which has led to many negative effects such as reduced removal of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, endangering the forest species, dislocation of indigenous communities and destruction of the rainforest ecosystem. This paper discuses the impacts of the continued deforestation in the tropical rainforests and the short and long term solutions to the problem putting into consideration the political, social and ethical issues that are involved.
The impact of continued deforestation
The following are the impacts of deforestation which is caused by unsustainable logging and the clearing of the forests for other uses has diverse social, economical and environmental impacts. The deforestation is carried out to get additional land for agriculture, building different infrastructure such as roads, building urban centers and industries (Brown K & William D. 1994).
i. Impact on carbon cycle
The tropical forests play an important role in balancing the carbon cycle as they have the ability of exchanging the carbon dioxide with the atmosphere and they also store carbon. The continuous deforestation alters this carbon cycle through the modification of the biosphere carbon reserve and the carbon exchange between the atmosphere and biosphere. For instance, deforestation leads to the increase in the amount of carbon dioxide that is emitted into the atmosphere. In 1980s, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) indicated that deforestation contributed to about 1.6 billion tons of carbon emissions into the atmosphere as compared to other human activities. Increased droughts, hurricanes and the sea level changes are some of the negative environmental effects of the continuous deforestation in the tropical rainforests. The subsequent forest clearance, land use and burning leads to the release of much carbon in to the atmosphere. Some carbon in the burnt ash remains in the soil as the charcoal does not decompose easily (Brown K & William D. 1994).
ii. Global warming
The tropical rainforests deforestation has led to global warming which is characterized by the increased net global temperature due to the increased amount of greenhouse gases that are emitted into the atmosphere. The greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane contributes to the increase of the atmospheric temperature through radiative forcing process. This global warming in turn results into the changes in the patterns of agricultural productivity, rise in sea levels and the thermal expansions of oceans. Also, global warming will threaten the conservation of nature and the migration of the climatic zones to the poles which may result to ecosystem stresses.
iii. Impact on soil
The rain forests act as a sponge that absorbs the rain water and releases it slowly to the ground. By so doing, the speed at which the water flows into the rivers is reduced thus reducing soil erosion. The decomposing layers and soil in the forests are held by the roots of the plants. When deforestation/clearing of the forests occurs, the plants that hold the soil and absorb the rain waters are removed leading to severe soil erosion, siltation of the rivers and floods. The rainforest's nutrients are normally found in the tree branches and leaves and these plants are important in the recycling of the available nutrients. As the forests are cleared, the many vital nutrients in the rainforests are decreased and the recycling cycle of the nutrients is disrupted thus the rainforests cannot be able to support some important activities such as cultivation on this land for a long time (Hemming J & Royal geographical society. 1985).
iv. Loss of biodiversity
The degraded environment with reduced biodiversity is brought about by continued deforestation. The tropical rainforests provides habitat to wildlife and they foster the conservation of medicine. It is approximated that more than 50 species are being lost every day due to the continued deforestation. This has led to the extinction of some plants and wildlife animals. This extinction of biodiversity is one of the long lasting problems that are brought about by deforestation. The extinction of species leads to the reduction of the population especially for the species that are endangered. These populations of these species have reduced to the minimum population referred to as the minimum viable population that is brought about by factors such as the environmental and demographic stochasticity. In demographic stochasticity, deforestation increases the death rates of the species leading to extinction of the species more especially the ones that take very long time to recover due to low birth rates. Also, the social life of the animals is disrupted when their population is reduced and the mating is affected. As the distance between the plants in the forests increases, the pollination processes are affected hence the plants end up reducing. On the other hand the environmental stochasticity arises due to factors such as drought, floods, forest fires and climatic fluctuations which make the animal species to migrate and results to death of other wildlife species and therefore leads towards extinction (Mongabay.com).
v. Impact on hydrological system
The plants in the tropical rainforests play a very significant role of maintaining the water cycle. The plant draws water from the soil through their roots and releases it to the atmosphere via their leaves. Therefore, the large percentage of the water that is found in the tropical rainforest's ecosystem is contained by the tropical plants. Logging in the rainforests leads to increased droughts and floods. The clearing of the forest makes the flow of water into rivers to increases due to the high surface runoff, lack of filtration and rapid movement of water through the soil profile which enhances the increment of floods (Kevin B. 1998).
The droughts arise because the water is not absorbed into the soil hence the lands dry up when the rainfall decreases. Also, the quality of the water in the nearby water bodies is greatly affected by the deforestation. the floods carries some inorganic sentiments into rivers and oceans which has negative impacts on the general productivity of the rivers and oceans by blocking light from entering into the waters. The oxygen that is dissolved in the rivers is reduced through the addition of the inorganic materials into the rivers. In addition, the reduced flow of water and lack of sufficient tree sheds leads to fluctuations in temperatures which results to the change of the original characteristics of the water bodies and endangers the lives in the waters. Finally, deforestation of tropical forests causes a reduction in the total annual precipitation and reductions in evaporation which in turn results to reduced rainfall in the affected areas. The low rainfall or lack of rainfall in dry seasons leads to the forest fires which hinders the secondary rainforest growth (Kevin B. 1998).
Impacts of deforestation to the indigenous groups
The tropical rain forests have many people claim that the forest is their home. These people with their cultures have lived in these forests for thousands of years and they depend on the rainforests for basic needs such as shelter, medicine, food and clothing. These people know how to care for their environment and they facilitate a sustainable existence since they are able to use the tropical rainforest's land without posing any threat to plants and animals. These people are driven off on their original homes and sometimes killed by the people who need to use the forest land in the name of development. The infrastructure that has been built in some parts of the rainforest have opened up the forest areas to the outsides that have interfered with the lives of the indigenous groups (Mongabay.com). The continued deforestation has endangered the social and the economic welfare of the indigenous people who live in the forests and they have been forced to move to overcrowded places or top places that are outside the rainforests where they are not able to live comfortably because they lack the required knowledge and skills. Also, the intruders to the forests bring some diseases which cannot be cured to the indigenous people and the valuable knowledge about herbal medicine and forests is lost when these indigenous groups are affected through deforestation (Zeppel Heather.2006).
Impacts of deforestation on the economy
Deforestation of the tropical rainforests is done for short term economic gains but at the expense of long lasting economic policies in the developing countries. One of the impacts of deforestation on economy is the decreased employment potential which is very harmful to the poor people in the society. When the forests are cleared, the tourist attractions are reduced since most tourists look for well protected and clean ecosystems. This affects the .economy as it leads to reduced tourism and tourism related activities which gives a lot of money to various countries. In addition, deforestation makes some countries to lose their potential renewable revenues. For instance, the tropical rainforests that contributes to the national economic growths are cleared leading to poor economies.
Solutions to the deforestation in the tropical rainforest
The rainforests ecosystems should be rehabilitated. The poor lives for the people living near the tropical rainforests make them to engage in the deforestation activities. To stop this, the alternative ways of improving these peoples' living standards should be considered. People should be rational in the utilization of the already deforested lands. To avoid more future loss of the important rainforest ecosystems, people should increase the productivity of the farms, grasslands, scrublands and ensure that the animal and plant species are returned to the degraded places. In order to minimize the needs for further deforestation in the rainforests, the following actions should be taken.
i. Avoiding wasteful land use practices.
ii. Improving the already existing agricultural lands.
iii. Making good use of the benefits from the already deforested lands.
The national governments and other stakeholders should address the deforestation issue which needs the consideration of different people and their activities. Firstly, the industrial operations in the rainforests should be avoided. For instance the large scale agricultural activities and logging that require use of machines should be reduced because the industrial operations are highly destructive to the natural ecosystems. These modern industrial practices are less efficient as compared to the traditional practices such as the harvesting methods. The exotic plantations should be established which will lead to the reduction of pressures on the natural rainforest ecosystem. Secondly, the governments should address the issues of the farmers who live near the forests. They should enhance the intensification of the already existing agricultural activities and promotion of the alternative sustainable techniques of cultivation such as crop rotation that enhances and improves the fertility of the soil. It is ethical or the governments to assist the poor farmers living near the forests to get formal ownership of their pieces of lands in order to prevent them from using the forest land for their own activities. Through this, these people will be forced to use their legal lands effectively rather than seeking land in the forests in case their lands are exhausted.
The indigenous people play an important role in the conservation of the tropical rainforests ecosystem due to the fact that they can co-exist without harming them. The rights of these people should be recognized and respected and they should be allowed to continue living in the forests which are their original homes. Also the local communities who normally have the interest of maintain the natural ecosystem should be empowered rather than giving all the powers to political leaders and other people who ever-exploit the rainforests for personal gains (Zeppel Heather.2006).
Relevant research and education projects will play a major role in reversing the destruction of the tropical forests. People should explore the alternative uses of the forests such as biological disease and pest control, removal of dusts from air, provision of herbal medicine and the stabilization of the climate instead of clearing them for timber. Also, it is important for people be educated to appreciate themselves as part of nature (Rainforest Information Centre Educational Supplement).
Finally, the national governments and all the people should appreciate and support all the international programs that aim at reducing the destruction of the rainforests. For example, the World Bank's international biodiversity program called the Biodiversity Action Program (BAP) should be supported. BAP advocates for the establishment of reserves to prevent deforestation, encourages monocultures and gives patents to genetic components (Rainforest Information Centre Educational Supplement).
The tropical rainforests is one of the important resources in the world. Deforestation in these forests is carried out with the aims such as acquiring of the additional land for various human activities. This deforestation of the tropical rain forests pose some negative impacts includes environmental, economic and social impacts. The continuous deforestation alters the carbon cycle through the modification of the biosphere carbon reserve and the carbon exchange between the atmosphere and biosphere. It has also led to global warming which is characterized by the increased net global temperature due to the increased amount of greenhouse gases that are emitted into the atmosphere. This global warming result into the changes in the patterns of agricultural productivity and ecosystem stresses. In addition, deforestation has led to extinction of some species of animals and plants, the hydrological system has been affected, and the indigenous groups have been displaced and have led to poor economies due to reduced ecotourism. The solutions to the deforestation problem includes the rehabilitation of the tropical rainforest ecosystems by avoiding wasteful practices and improving the existing land resources, addressing the deforestation issue while considering the needs of various people, recognizing, respecting and empowering the indigenous groups and local communities, carrying out scientific researches relating to the issue and supporting the international programs that aims at reducing the rainforest deforestation.