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Teaching Unit: Tropical Deforestation

One of the most serious problems regarding forests globally is the continuing loss of tropical forests. Whereas forests in temperate and boreal regions around the world are generally increasing in area coverage and in the size and volume of standing trees, tropical forests are being lost at a rate approximating 30 to 35 million acres annually.

The causes of tropical forest loss are many and relationships complex. A study of this problem provides an opportunity to discuss with students issues as varied as population growth, poverty, growing needs for agricultural land, shifting agriculture, the importance of wood as a fuel for heating and cooking in developing countries, and related issues. The role of logging in tropical deforestation - often greatly overstated in environmental literature - can also be examined.

A PowerPoint presentation (broken into two parts 1 and 2) filled with the most recent information regarding tropical forests and rates of forest loss, as well as a number of photographs taken in the Brazilian Amazon showing land cleared for cattle ranching and impacted by shifting and permanent agriculture and logging, is available for downloading. An accompanying publication provides supporting information and an extensive listing of other information sources.

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