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Tree felling: Destroying our future

Deforestation in Nigeria has become a growing concern due to its adverse effects on the environment and communities. Deforestation, defined as the removal of forests…

Deforestation in Nigeria has become a growing concern due to its adverse effects on the environment and communities. Deforestation, defined as the removal of forests by humans, either for timber or to clear land for other uses such as agriculture or urbanisation, is the primary cause of loss of forest cover in Nigeria. Estimates by Economic Confidential in 2019 suggested that we were losing our natural forest cover at a rate of 11 per cent annually. 

Regional breakdown of deforestation from 1979 to 1995 showed that total forest declined by 48 per cent in the North Central, seven per cent in the North East, 60 per cent in the North West, 53 per cent in the South East, 13 per cent in the South South and 12 per cent in the South West. In 2000, the forest cover was estimated at 13.5 million hectares compared to 17.5 million hectares in 1990, a forest cover loss of close to 400,000 hectares per annum or a decline of about 2.6 per cent. 

Age-long traditional agricultural practices, overgrazing, poor land tenure system, as well as fuel wood consumption, logging for export, round wood consumption and food crop production are among the major causes of deforestation in Nigeria. According to the United Nations (UN), Nigeria has one of the highest deforestation rates in the world. 

The effects of deforestation on the environment are widespread and far-reaching. Deforestation disrupts the natural balance of ecosystems leading to loss of biodiversity, soil erosion, and changes in the local climate. It also contributes to releasing large amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Deforestation negatively affects the local population by reducing access to clean water and increasing the risk of flooding and landslides. 

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It is important to recognise the interconnectedness between forests, climate, and biodiversity conservation. Efforts to combat deforestation and promote sustainable land use practices are crucial for mitigating climate change and preserving our planet’s ecosystems. 

Experts have shown some examples of how deforestation affects climate change. 

Loss of Carbon Sequestration: Forests are vital for carbon sequestration, which is the process of capturing and storing atmospheric carbon dioxide. Deforestation disrupts this process, reducing the ability of ecosystems to absorb Carbon Dioxide (CO2) and mitigate climate change. 

Loss of biodiversity: Deforestation results in the loss of habitat for countless plant and animal species. The destruction of ecosystems can lead to the extinction of species and disrupt ecological balance, further exacerbating the impacts of climate change. 

Altered Water Cycle: Forests play a crucial role in regulating the water cycle by returning water vapour back into the atmosphere through a process called transpiration. Deforestation disrupts this cycle, leading to changes in rainfall patterns and potentially contributing to droughts and other extreme weather events. 

Negative Feedback Cycles: Deforestation can trigger negative feedback cycles that contribute to global warming. For example, when forests are cleared, it can lead to soil degradation and reduced agricultural productivity, which may result in increased deforestation as people seek new land for farming 

Increased Greenhouse Gas Emissions: Deforestation contributes to increased greenhouse gas emissions, primarily through the release of carbon dioxide. The loss of forests reduces the planet’s capacity to absorb CO2, leading to higher concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. 

It’s significant to note that these causes can vary across regions and countries. Thus, efforts to combat deforestation require a multi-faceted approach that addresses the underlying drivers while promoting sustainable land use practices. 

The serious consequences of deforestation for the planet can be prevented in many ways, effective ones may include: 

Raise awareness: Increasing public awareness about the causes and consequences of deforestation is essential for promoting forest conservation. By educating people about the importance of forests and the benefits of forest conservation, we can foster a sense of responsibility and appreciation for nature among people 

Plant more trees: This is one of the most straightforward ways to combat deforestation. By planting more trees, we can help to restore degraded forests and create new habitats for wildlife. We can contribute to the efforts against deforestation by planting trees in our backyard or support reforestation projects. 

Support sustainable agriculture: Unsustainable farming practices such as slash-and-burn agriculture can lead to deforestation. By supporting sustainable agriculture practices such as conservation agriculture, agroforestry, and organic farming, we can help to reduce the need for clearing large areas of forest. 

Reduce paper consumption: Paper production is one of the leading causes of deforestation. By reducing our paper consumption, we can help to reduce the demand for wood pulp and protect forests. Use of digital documents can reduce our paper consumption. We should be recycling and buying recycled paper products 

Use sustainable wood products: The demand for wood products such as furniture, paper, and construction materials is a major driver of deforestation. We should massively invest in sustainable wood production that can be certified to help to reduce the demand for illegally harvested wood 

Enforce laws and regulations: Governments around the world have enacted laws and policies that protect forests from illegal logging and land grabbing. Similar laws and regulations can be enacted or strengthened if they exist to help prevent activities that contribute to deforestation. 

To effectively combat deforestation, it is crucial to address the underlying causes such as poverty, promote sustainable logging practices, reforestation and afforestation involving local communities, implement policies that protect forests while accommodating urban growth, improve law enforcement and address corruption to control illegal logging and other activities contributing to deforestation. 

Government palliative measures should be channeled into supply and distribution of packages of energy efficient stoves, clean energy for cooking (cooking gas) and advocacy and training on environmental conservation. 

Deforestation in Nigeria is undeniable, hence an urgent action is needed to address it, as forests play a crucial role in mitigating climate change by acting as carbon sinks. When forests are cut down, the stored carbon is released back into the atmosphere as CO2, contributing to global warming. 

 

Ahmad resides in Bauchi: [email protected] 

 

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