Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Excessive Logging and Biodiversity

Two months ago, our team conducted a survey on the Portland State campus. According to several students, one of the most dangerous threats to the ecosystem and healthy global biodiversity is excessive logging. Logging is the practice of cutting down, removing, and preparing timber into goods such as paper and wood products. While there have been benefits reported to correlate with logging practices such as getting rid of non-native species, and making room for new plant growth, the dangers of logging have longer-lasting effects on our ecosystem.

Nearly 70% of all animal life call forests their home. Forest habitats provide cover and shade, areas for animals to create nests, and food. Excessive logging, especially clear-cutting (the process of completely cutting down all the trees in a large area), destroys these natural habitats which may lead to local extinction of species. In addition to destroying natural habitats, excessive logging is a cause of soil erosion. Especially in the case which trees located along stream banks are removed, the soil under the trees becomes eroded and may wear down completely. Soil acts as a recycling center for nutrients, however eroded soil may not perform this function effectively. Not only does the tree-removal aspect of logging itself pose threats to healthy forest soil, but the logging trucks used to transport the harvested trees and the loggers themselves do as well. Logging trucks travel on soil and unpaved roads, wearing down the ground below them. These trucks scare animals away from their natural habitat, and cause several animal deaths per year by collision. Loggers themselves also pose a threat to forest ecosystems. There is a real and present issue of loggers illegally hunting while on the job. Not using permits, these loggers are usually hunting in areas meant to be protected from hunting.

While still debated, another possible danger excessive logging presents is its indirect effect on global warming. Plant life creates oxygen and absorbs greenhouse gases. However, when this plant life is destroyed by logging, this process is minimized, resulting in more greenhouse gases remaining in the atmosphere, which in turn contributes to global warming.

Logging practices remain a hotly debated topic, and there is an abundance of information resources online, in libraries, and on television. Being mostly covered by forest land, Oregon has a close relationship with the logging industry, and one mustn’t look too far to find themselves in the center of this discussion.

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