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Deforestation

Forests form a large part of the GCSE Geography syllabus. This quiz is all about deforestation - the deliberate destruction of forests.

Deforestation is the permanent destruction of forests in order to make the land available for other uses. According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation, an estimated 18 million acres of rainforest are lost each year. And according to a study by the US University of Maryland and the World Resource Institute, since the last century Indonesia has lost 15.79 million hectares of forest land.

Deforestation is far from a modern phenomenon. Examination of pollen levels has shown that extensive deforestation took place in the Neolithic period in the UK, and since 1600 90% of the forests in the US have been removed. Now the bulk of the worlds remaining indigenous forests are in Canada, Alaska, Russia and the north-western Amazon basin.

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Some estimates state that over half the trees that are removed are used for fuel. Tracts are also removed to make space for housing and urbanisation, as well as for agriculture and cattle farming. In places such as Indonesia, palm oil is a leading reason for deforestation. Forests are also removed to supply hard woods, which are now a highly prized and expensive material. Other uses include paper manufacturing and gold or other mineral mining. On occasion forest fires destroy mature forests, but they make way for regrowth. Climate change means that some forests are dying out as mature trees fail to adapt to changing conditions and they are not replaced by younger trees - either due to the climatic changes, or to over grazing.

Whilst the destruction of the trees and the attendant ecosystems is itself a tragedy, deforestation is considered to be one of the major contributing factors to global climate change.

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  1. Which of the following is not a reason for cutting down trees?
    The land left after trees are removed is often used to grow crops like sugar cane to produce biofuels
  2. Deforestation leads to a loss of biodiversity. What is the definition of biodiversity?
    Some areas of the rainforest contain thousands of as yet undiscovered species. Destruction of the rainforest means this biodiversity is lost even before it's been discovered
  3. What are the four main effects of deforestation?
    The reduction in daily convectional rainfall will reduce the overall amount of rain, whilst the lack of trees to uptake water will lead to flash flooding. The nutrient poor soils can wash away rapidly, and the reduction in tree numbers will lead to higher levels of carbon in the atmosphere
  4. What impact does deforestation have on the indigenous tribes living in the area?
    Illegal loggers have used gunmen to drive tribespeople from some areas, including tribes that have had no contact or limited contact with the outside world
  5. Which of the following is not a way that we as consumers can help reduce deforestation?
    Fair trade products help the producers get a fair price. Increasing the use of any wood based product will increase the number of trees being cut down
  6. What is slash and burn farming?
    The ash from the burned trees gives some nutrients to the soil for a few years of growing. The problem is that it can only be used for farming for a few years, then a new area needs to be 'slashed and burned'. Recovery of the natural forest takes much longer than the time it took to destroy it
  7. What percentage of the world's tropical rainforests have already been lost?
    Half of the world's tropical rainforests have already been destroyed. With tropical rainforest soils highly susceptible to erosion, the loss of these trees leads to massive soil degradation and makes it very difficult for the forest to recover
  8. Why do some people argue that MEDCs have a duty to provide aid to LEDCs to help them reduce both their reliance on wood and their removal of the tropical forest to create space for agriculture?
    A large number of the tropical rainforests are located in LEDCs. They need this raw material to help them develop and to fund economic growth. By providing aid to develop sustainable solutions, MEDCs can help LEDCs preserve their rainforests
  9. How does satellite imagery help reduce deforestation?
    By monitoring the reduction in trees, areas where illegal logging is being undertaken can be spotted
  10. How would a plant-based diet reduce deforestation?
    By using the land to grow crops to feed humans rather than to feed cattle, it can be better utilised and less is needed

Author: Ruth M

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