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What's Harming Our Trees?: Fires and Deforestation

Forests contribute to environmental health in a number of ways, such as helping to regulate the climate, acting as a filter for clean air, and providing a home for various forms of wildlife. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, there are more than 700 million acres of forest in the U.S. alone. Worldwide, as much as 30 percent of the land is covered in forests. The trees in the forest benefit the economy by providing jobs such as the harvesting of lumber. Unfortunately, the number of forests and their trees are rapidly declining courtesy of humans and nature. If this trend goes unchecked, forests could disappear completely in as little as a hundred years.

Two of the main threats to trees in the forest are deforestation and fire. Deforestation is a problem that stems from the deliberate actions of humans and is prompted by greed and a desire to expand businesses or settlements. Trees are cut down for wood to make goods such as paper products or for the building of homes and other dwellings. They are also removed to create roads and to make room for livestock and crops.

Uncontrollable fire is also a form of deforestation that, when caused by a person, can be deliberate or accidental. Lightning and other acts of nature are also common causes of forest fires. Forest fires are particularly devastating because of the complete destruction that they cause. When trees are burned, the wood typically cannot be used to create products that help support the economy. In addition to the loss of trees and usable lumber, forest fires also destroy other types of plants, wildlife, and a multitude of organisms and microorganisms. Fires may also be detrimental to the earth by depleting nutrients and negatively affecting the soil's physical properties. Smoke from burning trees is also extremely hazardous.

The loss of so many trees, regardless of the cause, throws off nature's balance and can turn forests into deserts. It also contributes to the problem of global warming by allowing larger amounts of greenhouse gases to enter the atmosphere. Not all forest fires lead to deforestation, however, and some smaller, periodic fires can actually prove helpful to the environment and aid the germination process of certain plant types.

To prevent the destruction of forests, governments, corporations, and regular citizens must make conscious efforts to reduce all types of deforestation. When camping, follow all rules about campfires, and obtain appropriate permits before burning anything such as leaves, grass, or other debris. Cars with poor exhaust systems can spark and accidentally cause forest fires, so before driving near forests, people should make certain that their vehicles' exhaust systems are in good condition and working properly.

Adjusting habits and routines can help limit the use of trees and may reduce the amount being cut down. Switching to used, audio, or e-books and asking for online billing, for example, are just a couple of ways to reduce the use of paper. When buying goods, look for manufacturers and businesses that sell products such as palm oil, beef, and items made of wood to have implemented zero-deforestation policies. People should understand what laws are in place to protect trees both in their country and around the world. One can also help educate others by joining environmental awareness groups that are dedicated to protecting trees and wildlife. Another option is to simply talk to family and friends about the choices that they make and the impact that they have on trees and ultimately their health and that of their loved ones.

Forest Fires


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Copyright © 1998-2016 Brian W. Rich
Last Updated: 22 December, 2016
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