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There are quite a few methods of deforestation; we are going to concentrate on four of the most common ones here. They are slash and burn agriculture, selective logging, perennial shade agriculture and clear-cutting.

Slash and Burn Agriculture

Slash and Burn agriculture is the main method of clearing trees for small farmers and plantation owners in the tropics. This is because it is the only way to effectively remove unwanted parasites and organisms that reside in the desired land. The burning usually happens during the burning season between June and October. During this period, 20% of the fires in the world can be attributed to deforestation. The trees are cut down and then later burned in order to release the minerals in the trees back into the soil. There minerals are needed in the soil because soil in the tropics so very poor and nutrient deficient. However, the nutrients that are released into the soil after the first burn only last for a few years, due to the rain washing them away and their use for agriculture. This can happen anywhere between 3 and 20 years after the tree is removed. At this time, in order for the farmer to keep turning a profit, he will need to clear a new section of land and start over again.


Clear-cutting a forest is removing all the trees and vegetation, regardless of species, leaving the land completely bare. Because nothing is left on the land, scientists have no idea how long it takes the forest to recover. Clear-cutting is a method used both to clear the land and harvest trees for commercial logging purposes. Clear-cutting is the most destructive of all methods because nothing is left but the soil which is not even replenished by a burn.


Selective Logging
In selective logging, only certain trees are chosen to be cut down. Research shows that during selective logging, only about 3% of the trees are harvested. However in the process of harvesting that 3%, about 49% of the trees are damaged. The period that it takes for vegetation to grow back in selective logging is a relatively short 50 years. This is because there are patches of tree left to disperse seeds and provide shade for the developing seedlings from too much sun.


Perennial Shade Agriculture
Perennial shade agriculture, like selective logging, leaves large areas of forest intact, so the period of regrowth is also relatively short.  Only small areas of trees and vegetation are removed in order to leave adequate shade for the crops.  This method of deforestation is employed by farmer of crops such as coffee and chocolate, which need the shade of large canopy trees.  Perennial shade agriculture has one of the fastest recovery periods of all the processes of destruction.

December 19, 2006