Using Real Life Data to Understand Deforestation

Apr. 15, 2011 | 0 Comments | Geography | Math | Science | Social Studies | 9-12 | Natural Resources and Wildlife

Lesson Steps

Warm-up: Brainstorming about Forests
     1. In order to introduce the topic, have a brief discussion about forests and deforestation.
               a. Ask students to brainstorm why forests are important, both to countries and to the environment. Write their answers on a chart or on the board. Answers will vary but may include: provide resources for humans (lumber, medicine, food, etc.) and countries with resources to export, prevent pollution through carbon sequestration and water filtration, encourage biodiversity, provide homes/habitats for animals, contribute to the ecosystem by providing food/shade/shelter for plants and animals, remediate soils, prevent erosion, clean the air and provide oxygen, etc.
               b. Why might people or countries cut down trees? Answers may include: they might need the land for farming or development, their may be other resources such as valuable minerals underneath the forests, they might cut down trees to use for lumber, fuel or other resources.
               c. This will help them to understand the tricky balance between a country’s needs and those of the environment. Leave this brainstorm up on display for remainder of lesson.

Activity One: Analyzing the Data
     1. Supply students with the data chart (as a projection for entire class or as Reproducible One: Global Forest Cover) on forest cover provided below. Ask them to answer the following questions (as a class, small groups, or individually). You may also want to refer to a world map or globe as you discuss the various countries.
               a) What percent of the listed countries was forested in 1990? 36.5 What was it in 2000? 34.5 Did it rise or fall? It fell.
               b) Which five countries had the greatest percentage of land covered by forest in 2000? Brazil (64.3%), Japan (64%), Democratic Republic of Congo (59.6%), Paraguay (58.8%), and Indonesia (58%). Which five countries had the smallest percentage of land covered by forest? Egypt (0.1%), Ethiopia (4.2%), United Kingdom (11.6%), Nigeria (14.8%), and China (17.5%).
               c) Based on the data, can you make any generalizations about the location of forest growth and forest loss? In what areas of the world is forest area more likely to grow and in what areas is it more likely to shrink? Why might some countries be cutting down more trees than others? Can you tie it to economic issues, government regulation or resource management? In general, higher forest coverage is linked to a country’s climate as well as its population. Countries closes to the equator tend to have more forest. It is likely to shrink in countries that cut down forests to make room for development, agriculture, resource extraction, etc. This is directly linked to laws, regulations and resource management.
               d) Which five countries lost the most total forest area? Did any remain the same? Which five countries gained the most forest area? Why might this be? Nicaragua, Indonesia, Guatemala, Honduras, Cameroon and Nigeria lost the most total forest area. This may be because of greater population demands, increased development, or lack of/decreased regulation of land and resources. Canada and Egypt stayed the same. China, Japan, France, Spain, the UK and the US all gained forest area. This might have to do with population decline, decrease in development, increased regulation of land and resources, etc.

Activity Two: Putting It Together
     1. As a follow-up discussion, pose the following question to the students. Refer back to introductory brainstorm:
               a) Why is deforestation harmful to the Earth? Forests provide resources for humans (lumber, medicine, food, etc.) and countries with resources to export, prevent pollution through carbon sequestration and water filtration, encourage biodiversity, provide homes/habitats for animals, contribute to the ecosystem by providing food/shade/shelter for plants and animals, remediate soils, prevent erosion, clean the air and provide oxygen, etc. Without them, we would lose all of these.
               b) Why does deforestation occur and how does it impact humans and the environment? Deforestation occurs because of greater population demands, increased development, or lack of/decreased regulation of land and resources.
               c) Might deforestation have an impact on global climate change? Definitely. Trees sequester carbon, which is the major contributing greenhouse gas leading to global warming. They also serve to regulate temperatures and mitigate some of the increased weather events but preventing erosion, controlling floodwaters, etc.
               d) Why are forests important for soil? They help to filter toxins and other pollution from soil. Their roots hold soil in place and prevent erosion, especially lost topsoil. They also decompose to form new soil.
               e) Why are forests important for human health? Forests provide resources for humans (lumber, medicine, food, etc.), prevent pollution through carbon sequestration and water filtration, clean the air and provide oxygen, etc.

Extension:
Have students choose a country from the list to research why their forest coverage may have increased or decreased. What is it today? Why?