Conservation Biology

Tuesday, March 06, 2007


Most changes in the environment affect almost everything on the earth surface. These disruptions on the earth surface are dangerous and lead to the degradation of the planet even though change occurs natural – weather, climate, tectonic movement, etc. we are just speeding up the process. One of the issues which need to be looked at is deforestation. Deforestation has environmental consequences that most people are not aware of – such as global warming. Deforestation is when an area which was forested changes to be non-forested (1). This is caused by many factors, for example urban development. The removal of trees leads to the degradation of the environment with reduced biodiversity (1).

Deforestation alters with the rate or extent of deforestation changes the carbon cycle, hydrological cycle and the amount of soil nutrition (2). Trees reduce the impacts of rain drops on the soil so if the trees are removed the vegetation is altered with because some plants depend on these trees so that they can grow. Removal of trees alters the amount of water that penetrates the soil and groundwater. This leads to increased surface runoff and decreased infiltration and percolation. Evaporation and evapo-transpiration which are the processes which takes place from the trees and plants will be reduced due to deforestation. These will lead to reduced evaporation these mean that the energy from the sun is able to warm the earth surface, which will lead to rise in temperatures. The essential nutrients such as nitrogen will be washed out of the soil by run-off and these lead to soil erosion. The soil will end up being infertile and acidic (3)

In rural areas deforestation is caused by people because of the need for fire wood. The wood is used for fire for cooking, even though some of them have electricity. In this way they save electricity since they use it for lights only and use wood for cooking and boiling water. Fire releases carbon dioxide which is the dominant green house gas which contributes to global warming. Thus destruction of trees leads to the decreased consumption of carbon dioxide by plants which results in the increase of temperature. Trees increase the quality of air by taking in carbon dioxide and it also traps other particles such as methane which are released by factories (2). Removal of trees lead to the “albedo effect which reflects more heat and light back into the atmosphere than would be the case if the dun shone on green trees” (4)

I was busy capturing data for Natural Resource and Environment at CSIR the questionnaires was taking about the type of energy preferred by people at Zimbabwe. Most people preferred wood because it was free unlike the other energy source such as electricity and generator. Some of the people complained about deforestation because almost each an every person is starting to use wood so that they can reduce the cost.

Some people think that deforestation is caused by poverty, but it is not only poverty that causes deforestation even urban development (5). When a town or city is built, the area has to be cleared of vegetation. Ecological functions can be assigned economic values, and development is not always good from an economic point of view. As a result of deforestation the temperatures are increasing dramatically. Places like Polokwane might be faced with drought in the mere future, if the condition does not change.

Deforestation differs from country to country. In Ethiopia deforestation is caused by people. People clear the forest for their personal needs such as fuel, harvesting their own crops, building of houses, e.t.c. Ethiopia is the second largest populated country in Africa and there is also famine. The population of Ethiopia increases by the day and people needs a place to stay so most of the trees have to cut so that people have a land. In the early twentieth century about 42 hectares of Ethiopia was covered by trees but now it has less than 14.2 percent of trees remaining (1). In Nigeria the cause of deforestation are logging, subsistence agriculture and fire wood. Nigeria has lost more than half of its forest in the past five years and is considered the world’s highest deforested country (1).

How can we prevent/control deforestation, especially in less developed countries? We should start implementing some efforts (or “measures”) to slow deforestation or stop cutting wood. We should also start replanting trees just like Wangari Muta Maathai who was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize for “her contribution to sustainable development democracy peace” (6) in 2004. She planted over 30 million trees across Kenya to prevent soil erosion. In South Africa and other countries such as Australia, Canada and others have a day where they plant trees. The day in which trees are planted world wide is called Arbor Day (7).

We should also start using wood cautiously, remembering the after effects of cutting all the plants. People should also be educated about how the importance of plants. We should start taking care of trees and plants, if we do not do so we are going to pay the price.


[1]. Wikipedia contributors. Deforestation [Internet]. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia; 2007 Mar 1, 10:30 UTC [cited 2007 Mar 1]. Available from:

[2]. Beamon, C and Cargill, C.J. Deforestation and Desertification. [Internet]. Available from:

[3]. Jocelyn Stock Andy Rochen. The Choice: Doomsday or Arbor Day. [Internet]. Available from:

[4]. Barnekow Lilleso, J. P, Dhakal, P, Kjaer, E. D, Nathan, I and Shrestha, R. (2000). Conservation of trees through use by local people and decentralized seed distribution supported by a tree seed programme. [Internet]. Available from:

[5]. Collins, J. Deforestation. [Internet]. Last Updated: 2001 Feb 01. Available from:
[6]. Wikipedia contributors. Wangari Maathai [Internet]. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia; 2007 Mar 6, 06:06 UTC [cited 2007 Mar 6]. Available from:

[7]. Wikipedia contributors. Arbor Day [Internet]. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia; 2007 Feb 26, 21:01 UTC [cited 2007 Mar 6]. Available from:

Lethabo Mosomane
Tel: 27 12 841 2133
Fax: 27 12 842 3676


  • Hi

    Well written, however I would like to make some comments. You did say that in countries like South Africa, we have what we call Arbour day. According to my understanding it only comes once a year. Though that’s the case, the rate of removal is still higher than the rate of replacement. Education can be part of solution, but what will happen if people are educated about the importance of forest but still depend /use wood as their energy source?

    It is better to find affordable energy source that will replace wood use for example solar energy.


    By Blogger Lufuno, at March 07, 2007 12:35 PM  

  • Lufuno has a very good point about alternatives. One problem is many of them are technology-based which makes them expensive. Heating water with black tubing on the roof is not and that could be one way to reduce the amount of wood needed for heating water. Insulation of houses and use of insulation cushions in cooking can also reduce use of fire wood. I enjoyed your posting.

    By Blogger Rich Knight, at March 07, 2007 9:25 PM  

  • Solar energy is the cheapest and freely available, the problem with it is that you cant use it when there's no sun. so people steal solar panels. i don't think education will be enough to make people to stop using wood. Some do have the knowledge but still keeps on using wood

    By Blogger Lethabo, at March 08, 2007 8:36 AM  

  • Indeed deforestation has become a significant problem in many countries. In Mozambique deforestation is driven by factors such as potential for profit through logging and timber overexploitation (Mozambique is the largest source of timber in China), the increasing population needs more land for crop cultivation and the use of firewood as a source of energy [1]. Firewood seems to be major cause of deforestation in many countries and another alternative can be using gas stoves for cooking instead of harvesting wood. The serious concern caused by deforestation in Mozambique is erosion which leads to flood. Floods have already killed thousands of people and it is still a threat [1].


    1. Ghazvinian, A. 2002. Impacts of Deforestation in Mozambique. [Internet]. 2007 March 08, 15:14 UTC [Cited 2007 Mar 08]. Available From:

    By Blogger Dianah Nangammbi, at March 08, 2007 3:22 PM  

  • Deforestation is occurring in alarming rate in Kampala (Uganda). Paul Drichi (Director of Technical Services at the National Forestry Authority) said that the forest trees have been cut at rate that exceed sustainable levels which characterised by prevention of forest regeneration by grazing and fires. Paul also said that approximately 4.9 million hectares of forest existed early 1990s declined to 3.6 million hectares in 2005; a yearly depletion is 2% and this decline is regarded high by international standards (1).

    The consequences of deforestation have been blamed to cause environmental related problem in some part of Uganda by different experts. Regions which were usually cold and malaria free, are receiving rising temperature, providing good condition for disease spread. Paul Isabirye (a principal government Meteologist) indicated that places of south west in Kabele are losing 3°c of their minimum temperature every decade (1). These areas were previously not inhabited by mosquitoes but now are there, and malaria is becoming widespread. Deforestation in some part of the forest resulted to severely impact on Lake Victoria water level, affected rainfall pattern, disturbed the ecosystem and alter the micro-climate.
    Studies estimated that Uganda may lose the remaining forest in the coming 50 years if restoration is ignored (1).

    1.IRIN .2007 Uganda: Alarm over High Rate of Deforestation. [Internet]
    [cited 2007 Mar 27]. Available from:

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  • Deforestation is a serious problem worldwide,in South Africa even though the gorvernment is trying to electrify the whole country, the problem is still persisting.In some rural villages of South Africa which are electrified,the degree of deforestation is still very high,this implies that electrification of the country is not the solution to deforestation, there are other issues that get in such as poverty and joblessnes,e.g if your household is electrified and your not employed, you tend to depend on natural resources.

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