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Brasilien: Anzeige nach Krediten an Umweltsünder

Die Abholzung des Regenwaldes ist Brasiliens größter Beitrag zum Treibhauseffekt. Nun werden die Banken, die sie finanzieren, zur Rechenschaft gezogen... Continue

Brasilien: Anzeige nach Krediten an Umweltsünder

Die Abholzung des Regenwaldes ist Brasiliens größter Beitrag zum Treibhauseffekt. Nun werden die Banken, die sie finanzieren, zur Rechenschaft gezogen..... Continue

Brasilien: Anzeige nach Krediten an Umweltsünder

Die Abholzung des Regenwaldes ist Brasiliens größter Beitrag zum Treibhauseffekt. Nun werden die Banken, die sie finanzieren, zur Rechenschaft gezogen....... Continue

What it is all about
Raubbau, Dynamics and Consequences of forest destruction

Read about the consequences on ..
.. biodiversity and water supply
.. the climate
.. protective functions
.. resources
.. economic, cultural and social values

What is Raubbau?

Exercising Raubbau (or overexploiting) a forest means harming it to such an extent, that it can't recover within a few years, or destroying it entirely. It is also called Raubbau if the forest is 'managed' by timber companies or turned into so-called 'development projects' (social incompatibility) without the consent of the habitants living in or from the forest. This is the case in Brazilian Indigenous territory or in Borneo (Malaysia and Indonesia) where the habitat and economic space of the traditional inhabitants, like the Penan forest people, is being destroyed by the timber industry. The very basis of existence as well as the traditions of these people disappear irretrievably.

Latest evaluations of satellite images show that even selective felling, the removal of a few trees per hectare, can damage the ecosystem severely.

Our native European forests are composed of comparatively few tree species. Within a certain area there are many trees but only few different species. If you remove single trees, the composition of the species doesn't significantly change, and selective felling is a sustainable way of utilisation here. It's different with the rainforest. There it is possible that the next specimen of a species grows several hundred metres away! Especially in tropical forests many highly specialised species of animals and plants exist, e.g. birds, insects or orchids depending on a particular tree species. So in these forests even the felling of single trees can cause the disappearance of those animal and plant species that need exactly this kind of tree for their survival.

Felling and transport often severely harms the neighbouring trees. Additionally, solar radiation increases because of the empty spaces, which makes the soil dry up, thus increasing the risk of forest fires.

And selective felling also causes another problem: it's only profitable if the wood can be transported. But the roads built for this purpose make the forest accessible for gold miners, poachers, settlers and illegal loggers. Overexploitation often is the consequence of initially well-intentioned attempts to establish well-regulated forestry in many so far unexploited regions.

It's not a question of rich or poor

Raubbau is not a question of wealth or poverty: huge clearcuts in Canada don't even stop short of forests with high conservation value. And overexploitation doesn't only happen in tropical countries: also the boreal forests of Russia are exploited.


Dynamics and consequences of forest destruction

The countries with the highest rate of forest destruction are Brazil, Indonesia, Myanmar (Burma), Zambia, Tansania, Nigeria, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Zimbabwe and Venezuela. In these countries over 8 million hectares of forest are logged every year. Worldwide even 13-20 million hectares or at least 130.000 km² of forest are being destroyed every year – more than three times the area of Switzerland.

Forest loss is increasing rapidly ...

The speed of the destruction is increasing: while in the 80s it was 1 million hectares of forest that were destroyed each year in Indonesia, in the 90s it was already 1.7 million hectares and since 1996 the yearly destruction has been approximately 2 million hectares. Between 1985 and 1997 around 17 % of the Indonesian rainforest was logged.

All in all what's left of the original Asian forest landscape is less than 30 %. The situation in Africa is scarcely better. Today the largest intact forest landscapes are found in South America, North America, Russia and Oceania – we must ensure their conservation.

... and has grave consequences

If we lose our forests we endanger the survival of the Earth's biosphere: forests accommodate the greatest diversity of species. They are responsible for the water household and the stabilisation of local and global climates, they prevent erosion and are habitat and economic space of millions of people.
Survival on Earth without forests will be incomparably grimmer.


Consequences of forest destruction

Loss of biodiversity

There are an estimated 5 – 30 million different species of plants and animals. Approx. 2/3 of these species live in the forests. Among them we find seriously endangered or nearly extinct species like the gorilla, tiger and forest rhino.

Although the tropical rainforests only take up 6 % of the Earth's land surface they are the habitat of 50 % of all species worldwide – and these are uniquely interlinked. Up to now, forest ecological communities have been largely unexplored - and numerous species are still unknown. If there is no coherent ecosystem left due to logging – but only 'rainforest patches' - the complex networks and biological communities are most likely to collapse to a large extent.

For some people everything is okay, as long as a forest
delivers wood. Raubbau leads after some years - as in
Sarawak, Malaysia - to the destruction of the 'rawmaterial
source' forest. But the consequences of this unsustainable
'harvest' on other services, forests normally deliver, are
even more disasterous.

Disruption of the water systems

Forests are irreplaceable for the local and global water cycle. They store water and release it again slowly. Locally they alleviate variations in temperature, increase humidity and slow down storms.

As a cause of their destruction desert-like situations occur even in regions, where, geographically seen, they shouldn't (desertification) e.g. in Ivory Coast and Europe. Normally the consequences of drought are reversible: after the first rainfalls the seemingly dead desert turns green again. Manmade deserts, however, are infertile and the soil is degraded to such an extent that plants can hardly grow there again.

Climate change

Land ecosystems, especially forests, play a key role in the carbon cycle. During photosynthesis plants absorb carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere and with the aid of water transform it into glucose, which serves them as an energy source and raw material to form nutrients and reserves. Land ecosystems hold four times as much carbon (stored in biomass and humus soil) as is present in the earth’s atmosphere in the form of CO2, whereby untouched primary forests have the greatest storage capacity. Managed forests often don’t store as much CO2 as primary forests, but through continuous use they remain in a permanent stage of development, which means they constantly absorb carbon which is – by being stored in the wood - removed from the system.

Besides the combustion of fossil fuels like oil or coal, the extensive destruction of forests significantly contributes to the climate change. Between 20 and 30 % of the man-made CO2 -pollution of the atmosphere is caused by the large-area forest destruction mainly in tropical and subtropical regions but also in the northern corniferous forests.

There is a greater chance for stable forests with a vast biodiversity to adapt to the climate change than for tree monocultures. It is feared that ecosystems that have a long reproduction cycle (like forests) will have great difficulties to adapt to the climate changes expected (temperature, average rainfall and distribution of rainfall) and will die off extensively. After all the adaptability of species-rich forest systems is much higher.

There's a lot of carbon stored in the wood which the tree
has absorbed. Wood stores carbon until it is burned or rots.
This applies also for wood products like furniture or paper.

Loss of important protective functions

Forests have many protective functions only rarely associated with monetary value. Far too often we take them for granted. Destroyed forest cannot filter water anymore; drinking water has to be purified technically at great expense. Rain will run off more rapidly; the occurrence of floods will increase. In mountainous regions forests are a natural protection against avalanches and landslides. If they are cleared, whole mountainsides will slide down. Artificial protection devices can replace the forests' functions only insufficiently; in addition they are laborious and costly.

Without the protective canopy rainfalls will wash away the humus layer and wash nutrients out of the soil. Especially in tropical rainforests this process only requires little time as the humus layer is very thin for the fast decomposition of organic substances. Within a short time the soil degrades to such an extent that it's impossible for plants to grow there. At that stage reforestation is not possible anymore or only with the investment of a lot of time and effort.

Often we only become aware of the forests' great value after having destroyed them and as high costs and even catastrophes evolve from their absence. With growing frequency we read reports of mudslides burying whole villages. Even the highly destructive power of Tsunamis could be alleviated by intact mangrove forests.

Where forest has been destroyed or weakened, in mountainous
areas often with tremendous financial efforts avalanche barriers
have to be constructed. These are supposed to take over a
service, forests have provided for free.
Foto: S. Hamberger, Gesellschaft für ökologische Forschung.

Resources

Forests are very productive raw-material 'factories'. Besides wood they produce and also deliver fibres, fruit, natural colorants, medicinal plants as well as meat and fish. But if we carry on harvesting and using too much wood, at the same time destroying the supplies of non-wood materials, there won't be anything left for future generations. Through exploitation many forest products like medicinal plants will be wiped out before their medicinal potential can be explored and their benefits for man can be of use.

A way of using the forest which is widely
unknown in Germany: harvesting of resin

Loss of economic, cultural and social values

Forests are the habitat and economic space for over 60 million people. Unlike in our European way of life, their environment is closely linked to their inner life or spirituality as well as to the social structure of their community. If the forests are logged these people lose their habitat as well as their purpose in life, their traditions are forgotten and their quality of life rapidly drops.

Logging for the export industry produces first and foremost disadvantages for the inhabitants in most of the cases: while the forest had provided the people with food, building material and fuel, afterwards many animal species and edible plants have disappeared with the forest. The jobs with the timber companies often are short-term – when the forest is 'harvested' the companies move on leaving degraded forests behind.