Deforestation and Desertification


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Map 1: Deforestation data on occurrence around the world (Source: The World Bank 2011).

Deforestation and Desertification: A comprehensive look at its causes, contributors, spatial and temporal characteristic and human impacts thereof

Two of the most important and widespread environmental changes will be discussed in detail. The first is the occurrence of deforestation which is globally a problem and desertification also occurring on the majority of continents. Deforestation has an impact on desertification. Various aspects such as the spatial and temporal scale, the causes, and contributors of such manifestation, as well as human impacts and whether all types of global environmental change can be generalised, will be comprehensively considered.

Introduction to Deforestation
An important environmental issue, deforestation, is both a complex global and local problem and Africa, being a developing continent, is being most widely and devastatingly affected by such rapid occurrence. It compromises the notion of sustainable development by impacting the environment in a very immediate and detrimental way. Even though forests play an imperatively environmental vital role, as it supports vital ecosystems and houses a myriad of fauna and flora, it is being destroyed and cleared at an astronomically fast rate without having enough time to restore itself, causing inestimable habitat changes, as well as reducing carbon storage. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimated that, from 1990 to 1995, the annual loss was estimated at 12.7 million hectares Furthermore, deforestation account for roughly one-sixth of total anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases and degradation may account for 10% of total emissions in the tropics. Tropical deforestation is responsible for 6–17% of global carbon dioxide emissions that affect climate change (Angelsen & Kaimowitz 1999; Pfaff et. al 2013; Cassea et. al 2004).

Spatial characteristics
It is widely known that deforestation occurs in both developed and developing countries, but at different geographical contexts in specific localities and are characterised by different regional aspects, such as aridity, as well as diverse human-environment conditions.

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Published by

Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.