This topic submitted by topher ( flemincm@miamioh.edu ) on 2/27/03 .

Global Climate Change -Western Program-Miami University


Deforestation is occurring at an alarmingly increased rate. “The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that 53,000 square miles of tropical forests (rain forest and other) were destroyed each year during the 1980s. Of this, they estimate that 21,000 square miles were deforested annually in South America, most of this in the Amazon Basin.” (http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/Library/Deforestation/deforestation_2.html)
With wide ranging effects on nutrient cycles locally and globally, deforestation changes the nature of the atmosphere, land, and water. Here we trace the specific cycles and the disturbances resulting from deforestation. The carbon cycle for example has been impacted through not only the destruction of a carbon sink, but also through the burning of forests. The hydrological cycle is altered as the water table can no longer hold as much water, increased runoff, and habitat destruction results. Also, biodiversity falls as land is cleared. We discuss how the web of living things and their inherent interdependence is damaged.
Finally, we discuss the political, social, and economic forces driving deforestation. Roadblocks and problems to eliminating the destruction of forest habitats. Closing with and analysis of the debate over concervation versus sustainable use of forests


Deforestation is the process of clearing forests, by cutting down, clearing, or damaging the forests themselves, for various economic and political reasons. These reasons range from the need for increased land for agriculture and grazing, to the profitability of the extracted resources. Regardless of the perceived short-term benefits derived from deforestation, it is harmful both ecologically, as well as long-term economically. There is a need to explore the extent of this harmfulness and the effects on the environment caused by deforestation. For this project we will be looking the following questions:

How does deforestation affect the carbon cycle and what are the long-term implications of the affect?
What is the relationship between the loss of biodiversity occurred by deforestation and our global climate?
What impact does deforestation have on the hydrologic cycle, and how does this affect global climate?


We will attempt to answer these questions by examining the information on the carbon cycle and proposed influence of deforestation. We will also be looking at computer-generated models referencing increases in carbon globally and correlate this data to rates at which forests are being cleared, as well as contributions of carbon from deforestation. In order to understand the secondary effects of deforestation, primarily loss of biodiversity and the changes to the hydrological cycle, we will look at journal articles as well as any additional data available in order to determine the role deforestation plays.
Each of these issues is extremely important in understanding the impact that deforestation has on the climate and environment. Global climate is a complex topic that involves many different aspects and principles. Because of this it is necessary to look at a variety of different topics in order to develop a holistic understanding. We are not proposing that deforestation is the primary contributor to climate change, but rather one component. We will also be examining the motivations behind the destruction of forests and the proposed economic and political solutions and alternatives to deforestation.
The central question for the international community concerned with the conservation and better utilization of world forest resources is how to reach consensus on better use of the world's forests economically without compromising the ecological role of forests.
Within the context of the course and the relevance of deforestation to it, the chain of events resulting from losing a large carbon sink, habitats, water cycles, and biodiversity, are important to understand when comparing the forces driving climate change.

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Literature Review

Sources separated by relevance to topic.

Carbon Cycle
Science News Magazine, June 12, 1999. Anonymous. “Deforestation and Carbon Emissions” Revamped estimate on the emissions of carbon resulting from deforestation.

Wood Holes Research Center. www.whrc.org/science/carbon/carbon.htm leading organization on studying the forested environments relationship with global climate.

Carbon emissions from tropical deforestation and regrowth based on satellite observations for the 1980s and 1990s. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 10/29/2002, Vol. 99 Issue 22, DeFries, Ruth S.; Houghton, Richard A.; Hansen, Matthew C.; Field, Christopher B.; Skole, David; Townshend, John

Annual fluxes of carbon from deforestation and regrowth in the Brazilian
Amazon. Houghton, R.A., Skole, D.L., Nature, 00280836, 1/20/2000, Vol. 403, Issue 6767

Terrestrial Biomass and the Effects of Deforestation on the Global
Carbon Cycle., Potter, Christopher S., Bioscience, 00063568, Oct99, Vol. 49, Issue 10

Forest transitions and carbon fluxes : global scenarios and policies / edited by Matti Palo.
Helsinki : UNU World Institute for Development Economics Research, 1999.

Woodwell, G.M., Hobbie, J.E., Houghton, R.A., Melillo, J.M., Moore, B., Peterson,B.J., and Shaver, B.R.: 1983, `Global Deforestation: Contribution to Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide', SCIENCE 222, 1081-1086.

Hydrological Cycle
Tree Cutting Harms Water Supplies. Futurist, Mar/Apr2002, Vol. 36 Issue 2, Dan Johnson Effect of tree cutting on water quality.

Dickinson, R. E. Implications of Tropical Deforestation for Climate: A Comparison of Model and Observational Descriptions of Surface Energy and Hydrological Balance Aug. 31,
1989 423-429 Seasonal variation of Amazon evapotranspiration

Shukla, J.; Nobre, C.; Sellers, P. Amazon Deforestation and Climate
Change Science 247 Mar. 16,1990 Numerical model of the global atmosphere and biosphere has been used to
assess the effects of Amazon deforestation on the regional and global climate

Loss of Biodiversity
Planet Earth: Dying Species, Disappearing Habitats Source, Great Decisions,1992. SIRS Researcher Discusses what potential effects of species loss may be.

Houghton, R.A. and Woodwell, G.M.: 1989, `Global Climatic Change', SCIENTIFICAMERICAN, April, 36-44. An oft cited report overviewing global climate change.

"Perspectives on Biodiversity." SCIENCE, August 16, 1991, articles on pp. 717,
736-38, and 744-61. Summary of a wide range of issues related to biodiversity and

Perspectives on Biodiversity." SCIENCE, August 16, 1991, articles on pp. 717,
736-38, and 744-61. Summary of a wide range of issues related to biodiversity and

Satchell, Michael, "Any Color But Green." U.S. NEWS & WORLD REPORT, October 21,
1991, pp. 74-76. A growing movement chafes against environmental regulations.

Stevens, William K., "Species Loss: Crisis or False Alarm?" THE NEW YORK TIMES,
August 20, 1991, p. C1+. A look at humans' effect on other species and possible
future scenarios.

Barraclough, Solon Lovett. Forests and livelihoods : the social dynamics of deforestation in developing countries New York St. Martin's Press, 1995. Where Will All the Forests Go? ZPG Reporter Aug. 1989 Aug. 1989, Vol. 21, No. 4,

USA TODAY (Magazine) May 1989, pp. 48- 1989 by the Society for the Advancement of Education. A WORLD IN CRISIS. Peter Raven Conflicts and debates surrounding deforestation.

FORESTS IN A WARMING WORLD: A TIME FOR NEW POLICIES by George M. Woodwell Woods Hole Research Center, Sept. 1991, Kluwer Academic Publishers. Netherlands Politics of deforestation.

Materials and Methods

The collection and sythesis of data from multiple fields, such as the study of carbon cycles, water cycles, biodiversity, habitat loss, and socio/economic forces leading to and resulting from deforestation. By combining data from different fields we hope to determine the answeres to our questions and to make them relevant within the context of the class.

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