How Deforestation Works

The destruction of forests can have long lasting negative effects on our world. See more pictures of trees.
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To call attention to the issue of deforestation, Harrison Ford, star of the "Indiana Jones" movies, had his chest waxed on camera. "Every bit of rain forest that gets ripped out over there…really hurts us over here," he told viewers as hair was yanked from his pecs [source: AP]. Ford's public service announcement was in support of an environmental organization called Conservation International, which seeks to prevent deforestation.

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So why would deforestation motivate a movie star to sacrifice chest hair?

Deforestation is the removal or destruction of large areas of forest or rainforest. Deforestation happens for many reasons, such as logging, agriculture, natural disasters, urbanization and mining. There are several ways to clear forest -- burning and clear-cutting the land are two methods. Although deforestation occurs worldwide, it's a particularly critical issue in the Amazon rainforests of Brazil. There, the tropical forests, and the species of plants and animals within them, are disappearing at an alarming rate. In December 2007, for example, experts measured Amazon destruction at more than 360 square miles (932 square kilometers) in just one month [source: BBC News].

The effects of deforestation are long lasting and devastating. Entire species of insects and animals have disappeared because of the destruction of their habitats. Deforestation can cause catastrophic flooding as well. And scientists see that deforestation has a significant effect on climate change, or global warming.

If deforestation is so destructive, then why is it even done? What's driving the destruction of forests? To learn more about the causes and effects of deforestation, as well as current conservation initiatives and solutions, keep reading.