How Do People Harm the Rain Forest?

Elizabethsalleebauer/RooM/Getty Images

There are a multitude of ways in which people damage the rain forests, including cutting down trees, burning sections of the forest, building roads through the rain forests, polluting rivers with chemicals and flooding this ecosystem. These activities are caused by various industries, including cattle ranching, logging, agriculture, mining, the oil industry and dam building.

Cattle ranching damages the rain forest because slash-and-burn farming is used in most places to clear area so that grass can grow for cattle to eat. According to some estimates, 200 square feet of rain forest is destroyed for every pound of meat that is produced. The worst part of slash-and-burn agriculture is that the soil left behind quickly loses its nutrients and becomes infertile, leading herders to clear even more land.

Logging is also hazardous to the rain forest because of the method that logging companies use. Instead of searching out the types of trees that are valuable, loggers cut down vast swaths of forest and then pick out the most valuable trees and use the rest for wood chips or charcoal.

Because of the nature of commercial farming, agriculture is also harmful to rain forests in tropical areas because instead of planting crops alongside the existing ecosystem, farmers clear large patches of forest so that they can use plantation farming methods.

In the mining industry, miners have to remove trees and build roads to get to certain locations (which fragments the forest). They also use harmful chemicals such as mercury in the mining process. These chemicals often make their way into water sources, killing fish and poisoning the people and animals that depend on them. Oil companies often build roads and tear apart rain forests in search of new oil deposits.

Finally dam building is dangerous because building a dam creates a flood zone that destroys the forest around the dam.