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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

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