- Home ››
- Health and Safety Training ››
- Environmental Health and Safety ››
- Deforestation and its Effects upon Health
Deforestation and its Effects upon Health
The vast majority of people take trees for granted. They will often be more concerned with their aesthetic value such as looking pretty in an alpine winter setting or how much light that row of trees blocks the sunlight getting into their kitchen for example, without remembering the critical function trees and plant life play in sustaining life on planet earth. They remove carbon dioxide from the air, using it during the process of photosynthesis, and release oxygen back into the surroundings. Too much carbon dioxide and not enough oxygen can be deadly for life, including human beings. Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas which can build up in the atmosphere and can act as a blanket, trapping heat in the earth and preventing it being released into space.
As far as individuals are concerned, the impact they will have by cutting down trees is negligible, which is why they are unlikely to give it much of a second thought. However when taken as a whole across the entire planet and combined with the massive acreages of forests and woodland that are being cleared either for space (for living on or for food production), or to provide wood for fuel or building materials, the removal of all these trees reduces the overall capacity of these natural air purifiers.
The human population has been felling trees and using wood for building and fuel for thousands of years, so this is not a new phenomenon. However, the rapid explosion of the industrialised age in the last two centuries across the world has led to an exponential growth in the emission of carbon into the atmosphere, in conjunction with increasing swathes of land being cleared to satisfy the needs of a booming global population. One of these conditions on its own would be a problem, but both of them at the same time is a particular concern.
There are obviously effects upon the health of people as a result of a warming planet. A rise in sea levels caused by melting polar ice will cause coastal flooding which can be deadly to those caught up in it. Disruptions to weather systems and increasing average temperatures can result in more extreme weather and more devastating natural disasters. Weather such as hurricanes or heavy snowfalls can cause massive loss of life and injuries to those in the affected region. Also, the emissions by factories and power stations which contain carbon dioxide also contain other hazardous and toxic gases which can damage the health of people and make pre-existing conditions worse.
Deforestation and Soil Erosion
Deforestation can not only wreak havoc for the environment in terms of contributing to global warming and its subsequent effect on the health of people, but it can also lead to another problem, that of soil erosion.
Trees have extensive root systems which travel underground and seek out water and nutrients for the plant to use. These root systems also bind the soil by preventing it from moving easily and being washed away by rainwater or blown away in the wind. When deforestation cuts down and removes these trees, their root systems underground wither and decay and no longer bind the soil together. This makes it much more susceptible to erosion which can damage buildings on the land as their foundations shift, and create mudslides during heavy rain. Either of these scenarios can place the health and safety of those affected in jeopardy and result in injuries or loss of life.
Deforestation and soil erosion can also result in the loss of essential minerals needed by plants. So if the area was cleared of trees in order to provide land for crowing crops, over time this land may no longer prove suitable for growing crops of sufficient quality or quantities. Further wooded areas may then need to cleared to find fertile ground, which further exacerbates the problem.