Deforestation and Biodiversity Essay

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Deforestation, defined by biologist Charles Southwick as "the destruction of forests; may involve clear-cutting or selective logging" (p. 365), is a predominantly human-driven process that is dramatically altering ecosystems worldwide. "Clear-cutting" involves the indiscriminant removal of every single plant and tree species from within a selected area. The other major process of deforestation, "selective logging," focuses removal efforts on only specific, predetermined tree species within a

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Though diverse and plentiful, the body of deforestation statistics all support Charles Southwick's assertion that "deserts are expanding, forests are shrinking" (p. 117).



Before an exploration of deforestation can be undertaken, it is necessary to consider the diversity of the earth's many forests: "Forests come in many forms and occupy many different environments: wet and dry, hot and cold, high and low" (Southwick, p. 117). Biologists classify forests into four broad categories on the basis of the climate in which they are found, as well as the tree species that they contain. Forests of the first category, "boreal," are generally located within cold and dry climates such as Alaska, Northern Canada, and Siberia. These forests typically contain trees such as the spruce, fir, and larch. Temperate forests, containing trees such as the pine, oak, redwood, and hickory, are found in the cold and wet regions of the Pacific Northwest and Northern Europe. Subtropical forests, living within warm, dry climates such as the Southwestern United States and Mexico, contain the hawthorn, scrub oak, and cork oak. Finally, the tropical forests of warm, wet climates such as the Amazon and Costa Rica, contain rain forests and monsoon forests with such species as buttress trees, lianas, and stilt palms (categories taken from Southwick, chart p. 119). In general, Americans tend to think of deforestation as mainly occurring
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