Environmental Issues > Wildlands Main Page > All Wildlands Documents

Clearcutting means the felling and removal of all trees from a given tract of forest. One forestry expert refers to the practice as "an ecological trauma that has no precedent in nature except for a major volcanic eruption." Clearcutting can destroy an area's ecological integrity in a number of ways, including:

  • the destruction of buffer zones which reduce the severity of flooding by absorbing and holding water;

  • the immediate removal of forest canopy, which destroys the habitat for many rainforest-dependent insects and bacteria;

  • the removal of forest carbon sinks, leading to global warming through the increased human-induced and natural carbon dioxide build-up in the atmosphere;

  • the elimination of fish and wildlife species due to soil erosion and habitat loss;

  • the removal of underground worms, fungi and bacteria that condition soil and protect plants growing in it from disease;

  • the loss of samall-scale economic opportunities, such as fruit-picking, sap extraction, and rubber tapping; and

  • the destruction of aesthetic values and recreational opportunities.

Intact, healthy forests play a large role in supporting all forms of life on Earth. To environmentalists, the finality of clearcutting is viewed as an ecological tragedy.

last revised 5/3/2000

Get Updates and Alerts

See the latest issue >

Give the Gift That Will Make a Difference: Leader of the Pack

NRDC Gets Top Ratings from the Charity Watchdogs

Charity Navigator awards NRDC its 4-star top rating.
Worth magazine named NRDC one of America's 100 best charities.
NRDC meets the highest standards of the Wise Giving Alliance of the Better Business Bureau.

Donate now >

Related Stories

Q&A: Documentary Filmmaker Ken Burns on National Parks
Ken Burn spoke to OnEarth about his motivation for his new documentary series on America's national parks.
In the Canadian Boreal Forest, a Conservation Ethic at Work
After fighting successfully for years to keep destructive logging, hydropower and mining projects out of their traditional territory, the people of Poplar River are now working to secure permanent protection for their boreal forest homeland.
Shop Smart, Save Forests
Share | |
Find NRDC on