Let's look at the causes

The ever-growing human consumption and population is the biggest cause of forest destruction due to the vast amounts of resources, products, services we take from it.

Half the world’s rainforests have been destroyed in a century, at this rate you could see them vanish altogether in your lifetime! We must take action so that these forests, its plants and animals and us humans who depend on them continue to live. Deforestation is in fact considered the second major driver of climate change (more than the entire global transport sector), responsible for 18-25% of global annual carbon dioxide emissions.

Direct human causes of deforestation include logging, agriculture, cattle ranching, mining, oil extraction and dam-building.

Forest Clearance

Every year about 18m hectares of forest – an area the size of England and Wales – is cleared

World Resources Institute

Forest clearance for logging


Logging is believed to be the second largest cause of deforestation. Timber companies cut down huge trees such as mahogany and teak and sell them to other countries to make furniture. Smaller trees are often used for the production of charcoal. Vast areas of rainforest are cut in one go (clear felling) and the most valuable trees are selected for timber, leaving the others for wood chipping. The roads that are created in order to cut and remove the timber often lead to further damage: see the effect of forest roads under "Oil Companies".


Much of the fruit, cereals and pulses we buy from tropical countries have been grown in areas where tropical rainforests once thrived. The forests are cut down to make way for vast plantations where products such as bananas, palm oil, pineapple, sugar cane, tea and coffee are grown. As with cattle ranching, the soil will not sustain crops for long, and after a few years the farmers have to cut down more rainforest for new plantations.
When rainforest trees are burnt they release carbon dioxide, which pollutes the atmosphere and contributes to global warming.

Cattle ranching

Many rainforests in Central and South America have been burnt down to make way for cattle farming, which supplies beef to the rest of the world. It is estimated that for each pound of beef produced, 200 square feet of rainforest are destroyed.

The cleared land cannot be used for long without the forests' nourishment. The soil soon becomes dry and the cattle farmers then have to move on to create new cattle pastures leaving a trail of destruction. This 'slash and burn' system is used on a much more sustainable level with indigenous people who clear land on a smaller scale meaning the soil doesn't dry out and the forest clearance is localised and temporary rather than extensive and permanent.


The demand for minerals and metals such as oil, aluminium, copper, gold and diamonds mean that rainforests are destroyed to access the ground below. Developed nations relentlessly demand minerals and metals such as oil, aluminium, copper, gold and diamonds, which are often found in the ground below rainforests. The forest therefore has to be removed in order to extract them. Poisonous chemicals are sometimes used to separate the waste from the minerals, for example mercury, which is used to separate gold from the soil and debris with which it is mixed. These chemicals often end up in rivers, polluting water supplies which local people depend on, killing fish and affecting the river's ecosystem.

Oil Companies

Rainforests are seriously affected by oil companies searching for new oil deposits. Often large roads are built through untouched forests in order to build pipelines and extract the oil. This encourages settlers to move into previously pristine forests and start slash-and-burn farming or cutting more timber to sell or to produce charcoal.

Once established, the oil pipelines which transport the oil sometimes rupture, spouting gallons of oil into the surrounding forest, killing wildlife and contaminating the water supplies of local villages.


The World Bank and large companies invest money n developing countries to build dams for the generation of electricity. This is often viewed as renewable 'clean' energy, but it can involve flooding vast areas of rainforest. Dams built in rainforest areas often have a short life because the submerged forest gradually rots, making the reservoir water acidic, which eventualy corrodes the dam turbines.