columnBy Bekai Njie
Hello readers, welcome to another edition of the Environment. As we promised, we would be featuring crucial elements surrounding environmental facts, challenges and stories meant to raise awareness on the devastating effects of environmental degradation which seeks to evoke constructive platform for a much better approach towards environment.
In this edition, we would like to share with you what we observed as some of the potential effects of deforestation on our ecosystem.
The Gambia is a beautiful tourist destination centre, so in order to maintain that, we would need to step up our efforts to sustain our natural heritage. In recent years, we have seen how the tourism industry has been thriving in this country. This industry understands that in order to have a substantial tourists attraction centres, both our coastlines and other natural heritages like wild animals, birds, rivers, beaches and trees among others must be well taken care of to meet the demand ofposterity.
The ecosystem is a set of relationship among the living resources, habitat and residents of the area. It also includes plants, animals, trees, birds, microorganisms, soil, water and even people. We must understand that deforestation is a serious problem that continues to threaten many of the earth's most delicate ecosystems. Although the effects of deforestation are well known and have been put into consideration; it is an environmental threat that persists despite the dire warnings from researchers and experts around the world.
Forest ecosystems are also very important because they hold water and absorb water, which allows ecosystems to be able to create very rich and porous hummus topsoil. Forest ecosystems have been widely recommended as some of the most efficient and delicate ecosystems that currently exist on earth. Forests are very important ecosystems that are well known for holding many important nutrients as well as for recycling many important nutrients.
The most immediate consequence of deforestation is habitat destruction. Many different species of animals and plants live in forests, and the destruction of the forest eliminates their habitat, leaving them homeless. Some birds may rebuild their nests and live in trees. The deforestation also makes shade-loving plants accustomed to moist soil find themselves exposed to full sunlight and to rapidly drying soil.
Organisms that are unable to compete or survive in these altered conditions may die, and other organisms that depended on these vanishing species for food may in turn also die. In Essential Environment, it is indicated that habitat destruction is a major contributor to extinction of wildlife.
Fragmentation of habitat
The Gambia as a country is not an exception when it comes to the fragmentation of our habitat as deforestation still persists in our forests. Deforestation can sometimes leave forest-dwelling species confined to smaller and more scattered patches of habitat. Environmental experts called this habitat fragmentation.
Others believe that species such as mountain lions or bears that need large tracts of land may die out. The edge of these small patches of habitat can also be altered by interactions with different communities of species in the surrounding deforested areas, causing further species loss.
Trees and other plants help to anchor soil in place with their roots. They also act as windbreaks to slow or curb wind erosion. With the loss of trees and plants, the soil may erode more rapidly, making it more difficult for plants to recolonize the land left vacant by deforestation. If the land is closer or adjacent to a desert region, the loss of ground cover would no doubt increased evaporation and ensuing soil erosion can sometimes cause deforested land to degenerate into desert,. This process is called desertification. I may not be an agricultural expert but in senior schools we were told that mulching can also help prevent soil erosion.
Loss of Nutrient
In many tropical rain forests, the soil is actually nutrient-poor; warm, while humid conditions encourage a high rate of decomposition, and nutrients from dead or decaying organisms are rapidly recycled. Most of the nutrients in the ecosystem are stored in the plants themselves rather than in the soil. According to "Essential Environment," when a tropical rain forest is clear-cut, the soil that remains is often nutrient-poor and thus difficult for farmers to exploit.
Effects of forest destruction
Deforestation refers to the process of widespread disruption of a forest ecosystem that occurs when trees are cut on a wide scale. When a forest is removed and the humus-rich topsoil is left exposed, a number of consequences can be expected to happen.
When the rich forest top soil becomes exposed after the removal of trees, the rain that falls after that converts that rich top soil into a sealed-off soil that becomes very moist and muddy, allowing it to slide away from land. Agricultural experts would agree with me that when topsoil becomes this moist and muddy, it causes this soil to drip and slide into waterways.
We have to understand that most of the soil erosion that occur in developing countries are mainly based on agricultural practices. These include the clearing of lands and burning the bush. In The Gambia shifting cultivation could be a classical example of this.The effects of deforestation are especially troubling when it comes to tropical rain forests. Tropical rain forests are especially vulnerable to the consequences of deforestation. This happens because the humus top soil that exists in tropical rain forests is widely known to be very thin and lacking in nutrients.
This means that when deforestation occurs in tropical rain forests, the top soil that is left behind is very vulnerable and will tend to wash away and erode very easily. Usually, after deforestation occurs in tropical rain forests, the only thing that is left afterwards is very nutrient poor, hard, clay-like sub soil that is not rich enough to sustain most kinds of agriculture.