Consequences of deforestation for Guyanese people

By destroying our forests, we reduce our own quality of life, gamble with the stability of climate and local weather, threaten the existence of other species, and undermine the valuable services provided by biological diversity. The loss of our forests causes wide-reaching problems, affecting not only wild plants and animals but human beings as well.

Lives and livelihoods are at risk due to consequences of deforestation like:

Soil erosion: The roots of plants (mostly) anchors the soil in place. This is especially true of trees, which have roots large enough to anchor large swaths of soil.

When we clear large forests, soil erosion can become a serious problem. In some areas, eroding soil can lead to disastrous mudslides/landslide.

Large amounts of soil can wash into local streams and rivers, clogging waterways and causing damage to hydroelectric structures and irrigation infrastructure.

In certain areas, soil erosion issues caused by deforestation lead to farming problems and unreliable electric power.

Water cycle disruption: Trees and other plants also extract groundwater and release that water into the atmosphere during photosynthesis.

Clouds then produce rain, which becomes both groundwater and – eventually ocean water again.

However, when large numbers of trees are cut down, the water they usually extract, store and release into the atmosphere is no longer present.

This means that cleared forests, which once had moist, fertile soil and plenty of rain become barren and dry.

This kind of change in climate is called desertification. Such dry conditions can lead to an increased risk of fire on peatland and great loss of life for the plants and animals that once lived in the forest.

Flooding: Trees prevent sediment runoffs. Trees also absorb water from the soil, and therefore allowing the soil to absorb more rainwater.

During large rainfall events (which has been the case lately in Guyana), water storage capacity of the forest soil is overwhelmed. And the shrinking forests make it more difficult for soil to store rainwater.

Instead of trapping rain water, deforested areas become sources of surface water runoff, which moves much faster than subsurface flows.

The quicker transport of surface water can translate into flash flooding and more localized floods than would occur with the forest cover.

Guyana’s floral diversity is estimated to include over 8,000 species, 50% considered endemic. And there are approximately 1,815 known species of fishes, amphibians, birds, reptiles and mammals.

Deforestation in the country could alter land too quickly for plants and animals to cope, which means that many of them do not survive.

Biodiversity losses affect ecosystems because each piece of an ecosystem relies upon other pieces, one species loss can have far-reaching consequences for other species.

As is generally known, certain animal species are vectors and/or hosts to diseases. In fact, at least 60 per cent of all human diseases originate in animal species.

Deforestation can upset natural ecosystems and force a large number of animals (including insects and primates) to leave their original habitat and live closer to us or even in our villages and cities.

In regions with high biodiversity, this is potentially an even higher threat, since the greater the number of species, the greater the number of the ones that transmit diseases.

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