AP Biology class blog for discussing current research in Biology

Tag: deforestation

How Could the Coronavirus Pandemic Harm the Environment?

In light of the chaos of the coronavirus pandemic, the worldwide pandemic caused by SARS-CoV-2, and all of its negative effects, people have been searching for some silver lining to the whole mess. I am someone who is passionate about saving the environment, and I was thrilled to hear about positive environmental outcomes that the pandemic caused. Unfortunately, while rumors have circled around that the environment has benefitted from quarantine, experts are now saying the opposite could soon be true. It is hard to tell what the future will hold, but signs point to a risk of a future with more traffic, pollution, and resulting climate change. 

During April, the prime of stay-at-home orders and when most people were on full lockdown, daily global carbon emissions were down 17% from 2019. However, by June they were only down about 5% from 2019, and at this point many people were still not going about daily life like “normal.” Corinne Le Quéré, professor of climate change at the University of East Anglia in Britain says that “as soon as the restrictions are released, we go right back to where we were.” A somewhat similar situation during the 2007-2008 financial crisis provides some insight into the future. At the time, emissions dropped, but later rose right back up. 

China exhibits an example of a quickly diminished hope of change in their air quality. As they were the first country to shut down, they had a dramatic shift in air quality due to slowed manufacturing and transportation. However, they were also one of the first countries to begin reopening, and this change did not last long. Factories pushed to make up for lost time and the pollution consequently returned, even growing to higher levels than before the pandemic in certain places. Traffic levels have also apparently bounced back to the same magnitude as before the pandemic, despite the fact that there are still people who have not yet returned to regular life and are unaccounted for in this statistic. Furthermore, industries in fossil fuels, plastics, airlines, automobiles, etc. have been negatively impacted by the virus and now are searching for any way they can to make a profit. Governments including the US have complied with their pleas for cash, regulatory rollbacks, and other “special favors.” As a result, “there’s a serious risk that polluters could emerge from this crisis bolder and potentially more profitable than ever,” says Lukas Ross, a senior policy analyst at Friends of the Earth. 

Another devastating example of negative environmental impacts can be seen in Brazil’s Amazon rainforest. During the pandemic illegal loggers, people who harvest, transport, process, buy, or sell timber in violation of national or subnational laws, took advantage of the “smokescreen” provided by the pandemic and caused destruction in the rainforest that surpassed amounts in previous years. According to satellite data, 64% more land was cleared in April 2020 than in April 2019, despite 2019 being a record year for deforestation for the past decade. This is significant because the Amazon rainforest plays a vital role in regulating the world’s oxygen and carbon cycles, producing roughly six percent of the world’s oxygen. As we know from biology class, oxygen is essential as it is one of the main building blocks of life. Our cells need oxygen to produce various proteins, and ultimately more cells. Oxygen is also crucial in many of our body systems. Without oxygen, the creation of carbohydrates, nucleic acids, and lipids would be impossible. The Amazon, which produces a significant amount of oxygen, is being destroyed more and more every year. The rainforest is also considered a carbon sink, meaning it absorbs large amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, lowering CO2 concentrations. Its function as a carbon sink helps combat CO2 levels in the atmosphere and climate change.

It is unknown what else is in store for the environment in the remainder of the pandemic and in coming years, but we can only hope for the best.

How Deforestation and Amazonian Fires Could Impact Indigenous People


Believe it or not, in 2019 there are still uncontacted(or at least minimally-contacted) tribes living in the Amazon and in Papua New Guinea and isolated islands in Indonesia.  These indigenous people to the region have been living in the Amazonian parts of Brazil, Peru, Venezuela,

and Colombia for centuries and remained almost completely uncontacted or minimally-contacted despite the rapid industrialization and deforestation of the surrounding areas.  Not only does illegal logging and mining harm the environment and strip ecosystems of their resources, but it also poses an anthropological threat where these indigenous people are losing places to live, in turn threatening their isolated way of life.  

Despite the fact that an overwhelming majority of Brazilians support indigenous rights and their protection, the issue remains unsolved due to the selfish nature of the illegal loggers and miners.

If the threats of logging and mining were not enough to the ecosystem of the Amazon, the wildfires have stripped away a substantial amount of the environment as well.  The fear of anthropologists and doctors is that these uncontacted tribes have no immunity to diseases outside of their communities. The threat could be mass disease and infection that the indigenous people would have no way of handling.  In addition, specific tribes have been hostile towards outsiders and they would struggle to assimilate into civilian life if they should even decide to do so.  

This issue is where anthropology and ecology collide, thus showing the duality and significance of the issue.


Diversity in Forests Will Save the Earth

Global warming is a fast approaching problem that the human race cannot ignore. It is caused by a number of factors, including the overuse of fossil fuels and farming. These things release the greenhouse gases that warm the atmosphere and contribute to the overall problem. As humans, we are in no rush to stop doing these things, as they provide transportation and food. However, there is one more factor that is more easily controlled than the former; deforestation. Deforestation actually affects the environment differently than burning fossil fuels and farming in that it doesn’t produce more greenhouse gases- it strips the earth of it’s ability to metabolize gases-namely, CO2-into oxygen. The solution easy; just plant more trees, right? While not inherently wrong, research has shown that there is a smarter way to do it

Aftermath of Mexican forests burned for agriculture.

The smarter solution is as simple as planting different species of trees instead of just one type. BEF-China was started in 2009 as a community effort between Germany, Switzerland, and China- an experiment to record the changes when biodiversity was altered. What they found was incredible; more than twice as much carbon was stored in the plots with more species than in those with monocultures. This was not the first time species-rich environments were tested, though; this project is backed up by and based on a series of experiments done in the 1990s, where it was found that each species differs in its ability to capture certain resources. This biodiversity will not only work in the limitation of multiple types of resources, but will also provide habitats for other animals, increasing biodiversity not just in plants, but wildlife as well.

If nothing else, this new research will inform forest clearers’ decision making. It is improbable that humans will suddenly stop needing lumber, but small steps such as clearing monocultural forests instead of diverse ones will make a big differences. Because of the rising interest in the replanting of forests, this information can improve daily life in that respect. The point of no return is coming upon us, and it is important that we as inhabitants of earth do everything we can and do it intelligently.

Deforestation is Out of Control

Deforestation has always been viewed as a problem by modern observers. No one can deny that the cutting down of forests is necessary for economic development and continued prosperity in some lumber rich nations, however, things are getting out of control. In a recent study, it was revealed that a total loss of 2.3 million acres of forest was destroyed in between 2000 and 2012. To put that amount in perspective, it is equivalent to six Californians or the entirety of the United States east of the Mississippi River. This massive loss of forest land was countered by a gain of only .8 million acres, resulting in a 1.5 million acre net loss of forest land around the globe.

According to Ritchie King, a reporter on the subject, “Deforestation at this scale is having a tremendous ecological impact, on both species and climate. From 2000 to 2011, deforestation effectively added 14.5 billion tonnes (16 billion tons) of carbon to the atmosphere, about 13% of the world’s total contribution to climate change.”  Some nations who, in the past, have been the greatest culprits of deforestation, such as Brazil, have cut back their logging and have greatly reduced the rate at which land is cleared, however, in other parts of the world, particularly Indonesia, (if you scroll to the bottom of the article there is a graphic) deforestation has sped up rapidly. Not only does deforestation threaten the world as a whole through the production of a large precent of the earths greenhouse gases, but it also threatens the delicate forest ecosystems around the world. Heavy deforestation in areas with Rain forests, such as Brazil and Indonesia threatens the unique species of plants and animals which live there, and threatens to reduce the biodiversity present on Earth.

Deforestation in Brazil

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