How Deforestation Works

Ways to Reduce Deforestation and Repair the Damage

In December 2007, the United Nations Climate Change Conference took place in Bali, Indonesia. After 10 days of intense discussion, more than 180 countries agreed to the Bali Roadmap. The Bali Roadmap will guide participating countries in emissions reduction and intends to lead to a binding agreement at the 2009 United Nations summit in Denmark [source: Harris]. The United States and China initially did not agree to mandatory reductions, wanting countries to set their own goals, but they eventually conceded [source: USA Today].

The roadmap includes specific measures to reduce deforestation -- for tropical rainforests in particular. Many developing countries' economies rely on their forests, and they argue they should be able to use their land as they please. In response, the roadmap will investigate policies to financially reward countries who reduce their emissions by a certain percentage (the percentage has not yet been determined). Even this proposal faces controversy, however. Because those countries with the highest baseline rate of deforestation will receive the most reward credits, critics fear that many countries will rush to cut down trees in order to raise their own baseline [source: Tickell].

Besides the U.N., there also are dozens of nonprofits working to combat deforestation. A few well-known organizations include:

  • Conservation International -- teaches local farmers how to maximize their existing land, rather than clear new areas
  • The World Wildlife Fund -- works to shape policies and teams with communities to preserve forests
  • Rainforest Action Network -- uses in-your-face advertising campaigns to call attention to the rainforests
  • The Environmental Defense Fund -- champions government bills that provide financial incentive to private landowners (such as farmers) who practice land conservation
  • The Sierra Club -- works to protect and restore U.S. forests
  • Amazon Watch -- defends the rights of indigenous people and communities faced with industrial development
  • The Nature Conservancy -- has developed several initiatives to advance conservation

Can we really save the forests? Once the trees are gone, is it possible to restore the land? Most deforested areas, if left alone, will eventually regenerate to fertile landscape. We can certainly plant more trees -- a process called reforestation. In fact, many nonprofit organizations have popped up to support reforestation. For example, currently works on reforesting areas like Nicaragua and the state of Louisiana [source:].

In the meantime, new movements in forest protection have sprung up over the years. They include:

  • Eco-forestry -- where only carefully selected trees are cut down and are transported with minimal damage to the area; the forest ecosystem is preserved while commercial timber extraction is still permitted
  • Green business -- focuses on recycled paper and wood products, wood alternatives and environmentally responsible consumerism
  • Land use planning -- advocates environmentally friendly development techniques, such as reduction of urban and suburban sprawl
  • Community forestry -- where concerned citizens come together to manage and participate in keeping their local forests viable and sustainable


For more information on deforestation and related topics, investigate the links below.

Related HowStuffWorks Articles

More Great Links


  • Associated Press. "Ouch! Harrison Ford Waxes Chest To Make a Point." May 20, 2008. (May 20, 2008)
  • BBC. "Brazil Amazon deforestation soars." Jan. 24, 2008. (May 20, 2008)
  • BBC. "Deforestation and the Greenhouse Effect." March 4, 2008. (May 27, 2008)
  • Butler, Rhett A. "An interview with ethnobotanist Dr. Mark Plotkin." Oct 31, 2006. (May 27, 2008)
  • Butler, Rhett A. "Logging." Tropical Rainforests: Imperiled Riches - Threatened Rainforests. Jan 9, 2006. (May 20, 2008)
  • "Reforestation." 2008. (May 28, 2008)
  • CNN. "Satellite images show effects of urban sprawl." Feb. 21, 2000. (May 21, 2008)
  • Colitt, Raymond. "Brazil Indians, activists protest over Amazon dam." Reuters. May 21, 2008. (May 20, 2008)
  • Dangerfield, Whitney. "The Mystery of Easter Island." April 1, 2007. (May 28, 2008)
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  • Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. "Global Forest Resources Assessment 2005." 2005. (May 20, 2008)
  • Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. "Intact mangroves could have reduced Nargis damage." May 15, 2008. (May 27, 2008)
  • Forest Protection Portal. "Ecological Science Based Forest Preservation & Conservation Advocacy." 2008. (May 28, 2008)
  • Harris, Richard. "Climate Roadmap Emerges from Grueling Bali Talks." NPR. Dec. 15, 2007. (May 28, 2008)
  • Kristof, Nicholas D. "Can We Be as Smart as Bats?" New York Times. May 1, 2008. (May 27, 2008)
  • Lindsey, Rebecca. "Tropical Deforestation." NASA. March 30, 2007. (May 27, 2008)
  • Matthew, Walter and Bailey, Stewart. "Crystallex's Planned Mine Won't Get Venezuela Permit." May 15, 2008. (May 21, 2008)
  • Pomeranz, Ken and Wong, Bin. "China and Europe: 1780-1937." Columbia University. 2004. (May 27, 2008)
  • Rosenthal, Elizabeth. "Once a Dream Fuel, Palm Oil May Be an Eco-Nightmare." New York Times. Jan. 31, 2007. (May 21, 2008)
  • Science Daily. "Tropical Reforestation Aided By Bats." April 28, 2008. (May 28, 2008)
  • Tickell, Oliver. "Bail - The Key Issues." The Bali Roadmap. Nov. 28, 2007. (May 28, 2008)
  • USA Today. "Deforestation exacerbates Haiti floods." Sept. 23, 2004. (May 27, 2008)
  • USA Today. "U.S., China resist caps on global gases." Dec. 17, 2007. (June 4, 2008)
  • World Wildlife Federation. "Climate change a threat to Amazon rainforest, warns WWF." March 22, 2006. (May 21, 2008)