The destruction of the rainforest

More than a quarter of all the world’s trees grow in tropical rainforests. But the destruction of the rainforest is still progressing. Between 2010 and 2015, just over 6 million hectares of natural forests in the tropics were lost each year. Everybody contributes his share – both the population of the tropical countries themselves and we here in Germany. The positive thing about it: We ourselves have the possibility to change something – and that is very easy! Whether you buy consciously and sustainably, save energy or support donation projects for rainforest protection – there are many ways to help the rainforest.

  • Each year, about 9 million gross. hectares of tropical forest lost worldwide (in the period 2000-2012) – equivalent to the area of Portugal – every year! If you convert this, tropical forest the size of a soccer field disappears every 2.5 seconds! In 2018 it was as much as 12 million. ha tropical forest!
  • The area of primary forest lost in 2018 is as big as Belgium – more than 3 million. ha!

Rainforest destruction has many faces, whether it is the selective logging with which individual trees are felled and transported away, the clear-cutting with which only bare ground remains, or the work of bulldozers and co. that raze entire areas to the ground. But destruction often starts in small ways: The chocolate bar with palm oil in our shopping basket, the schnitzel from the discount store or the new smartphone we buy: All these everyday products contain a piece of tropical rainforest. From 2000 to 2012, forest loss in the tropics was the highest of all climate zones. 86 million hectares of tropical forest have been lost net. This corresponds to an average rate of approx. 7.2 million lost each year.

Questions and answers about the destruction of the rainforest

Why is rainforest being destroyed?

The Threat to the tropical rainforest and its biodiversity has many different reasons. Our consumption has a big part in it. Whether it’s palm oil, paper, soy, meat or cocoa, there’s a piece of rainforest in everything. Thus are 75% of global deforestation to the conversion of tropical forest in agricultural land attributable.
OroVerde staff member Dr. Elke Mannigel knows:

Countless areas of rainforest are cleared to create large plantations of crops – mostly in monocultures.

The coveted oil palms, for example, are grown primarily in Indonesia and Malaysia, where intact and particularly biodiverse rainforests have to give way for them. The Pulp plantations for paper In Brazil in 2015, about 2.7 million. ha one, an area larger than Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania!

Soybean cultivation in Brazil, in turn, cannot be considered without reference to livestock farming: As a direct driver of deforestation in Brazil, cattle ranching is the main actor, accounting for about 80%. Cattle pastures themselves currently occupy an area of 200 million hectares. hectares, which is already equivalent to one-fifth of Brazil’s total land area. Soy is then planted in large monocultures on former rainforest areas or existing farmland. Since the agricultural use, which took place there before, must move to other areas – also rainforest areas -, this provides again for additional rainforest destruction. This is also referred to as "indirect land use change" by experts.
The protein-rich soy also forms the food basis and necessary prerequisite for our own factory farming. The current meat production in the industrialized nations is only possible because of soy cultivation overseas: 80% of the world’s soy harvest is used as feed for animal fattening.
Last but not least, the sale of tropical timber also promotes the unsustainable timber industry in the affected regions, as they use this business as a source of income. However, estimates suggest that around 40% of the total trade in tropical timber can be classified as illegal.

The search for gold can also be responsible for rainforest destruction: ©Andreas Simmelbauer

Underneath some rainforests there are large deposits of mineral resources. Examples of this are the ore coltan (u.A. for cell phones), the ore bauxite (for aluminum products), and gold (e.g. for jewelry).

Mining is leading to the loss of biodiverse rainforest in many places, for example in Ecuador’s Amazon lowlands, where oil exploration is one of the main drivers of deforestation.

OroVerde employee Torsten Klimpel

For example, infrastructure construction (z.B. Roads, pipelines, power lines, loading stations, etc.) destroys huge areas of forest in the tropics every year for the development, extraction and transport of mineral resources.
Urbanization and infrastructure projects are also massive interventions in nature with serious consequences. This also includes large dams that serve to generate energy. As hydroelectric power is more and more in demand as "environmentally friendly" energy, the number of dams is steadily increasing. Many of these hydroelectric power plants, already built or planned, are located in the middle of the rainforest. In addition, ring roads also fall into this category of infrastructure projects, which often lead to further rainforest destruction.

Giving up is not a choice and it is too early to bury our heads in the sand. What you can do?

  • Act now and buy green!
  • With your donation, you can actively support OroVerde in its work around rainforest protection!
  • Read more about the big drivers of deforestation and learn how much you can do yourself to help the rainforest!

Who destroys the rainforest?

Agriculture is by far the biggest driver of forest loss in the tropics (the loss of tropical rainforests). This includes both small farmers, who often make their living through subsistence farming (that is, just to feed themselves and their families), and commercial large-scale agriculture, which is also driven in large part by our consumption here. Both causes are about the same in terms of weighting, but with regional differences. On the one hand, there are large corporations and companies that have an interest in raw materials such as oil, coltan, copper or gold, or trade in agricultural commodities such as soy, palm oil, wood or cocoa, or. Producing consumer goods from them, which we ultimately buy. A major buyer of industrially produced agricultural commodities is the European Union (EU): 36% of globally traded raw materials, for which tropical forests had to fall, were delivered to the EU. So it is also every single one of us who contributes to deforestation. This is happening through our daily consumption, buying, using and consuming products that use z.B. produced by mining and by conventional agriculture at the expense of the rainforest. Our big advantage? We have it in our hands and can make our contribution to rainforest conservation through simple actions in our everyday lives!

. for rainforest protection.

On the other hand, the local people contribute to the destruction of the rainforest. Sources of income, such as unsustainable logging or poaching, provide livelihoods for many people in rainforest areas. Initial approaches to alternatives include planting small vegetable gardens and raising small animals on community land for self-sufficiency. In addition, the cultivation of organic coffee or organic cocoa in various agroforestry systems can be a solution. This farming method relies on the fact that z.B. Cacao trees grown with various other crops on the same land. Not only does the small farmer have the possibility to use other fruits or vegetables in case of crop failures, but also the diversity of animals and plants on such an area is increased. OroVerde relies on precisely such measures in its pilot projects.

  • Act now and contribute to change!

How the rainforest is destroyed?

Rainforest destruction has many faces

There are different types of rainforest destruction on earth: large areas of the forest fall victim to fire due to slash-and-burn clearing. When it is particularly dry and hot, there is also a risk that the fire can quickly spread to other areas. A direct deforestation of trees is either done by individuals or. small groups that profit from the sale of the wood and work mainly with chainsaws, or by large companies that want to make room for new (z.B. agricultural land, development areas, road construction). In the case of road construction z.B. is done with much larger equipment, such as excavators and bulldozers. Also, the contamination of rainforest areas, triggered by the extraction of petroleum& Co, is responsible for a large loss of species-rich rainforest and poses major problems for the population through contamination of the water and soil, for example.

  • Act now and do something about it!

When is the rainforest cut down?

It is a great challenge to find reliable figures on the extent of tropical rainforest deforestation. This is mainly due to the fact that the various studies are based on different analysis methods and basic data, and there are also major differences in the methodology used to calculate the content of the studies. For example, sometimes the data comes from satellite imagery and includes established plantations, but other times it does not. All of this can vary greatly and lead to results that are difficult to compare, which may lead to false conclusions. To illustrate the difficulty, here are some figures for Indonesia as the main palm oil growing country as an example: according to the FAO, there was an annual forest loss of 500 there in 2000-2010.000 hectares. A study by the University of Maryland, based on analyzed satellite imagery, arrives at widely varying rates of deforestation during this period: less than 100.000 ha annually between 2000 and 2003 and more than 2 million. ha annually in 2008/09 and 2011/12. Even if it is not possible to determine the one correct figure, these figures nevertheless give an insight into the frightening extent of deforestation, using Indonesia as an example. El Nino years may underlie the differences in numbers between individual years, or political decisions such as the soy moratorium may influence deforestation rates. Therefore, long-term trends are the tool of choice for making predictions.

It is clear that the particularly drastic destruction of tropical forests started about 100 years ago (around 1920). Incidentally, at about this time, global commodity trade also reached its peak at that time. However, it is not possible to say exactly which factors played a role. Current studies show an annual forest loss of more than 7.6 million. ha, which corresponds to the area of Bavaria. Finally, the formation and also the disappearance of forests and other ecosystems is a process that takes place over many millennia. Another factor is the documentation of deforestation. For example. rainforests have already been cleared by humans at times from which no records exist. However, with the help of special methods, original vegetation types can be reconstructed and modeled, so that one has an approximate idea of what the vegetation looked like.

However, one thing is already certain: we have already lost more than half of the tropical forests!

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