Illegal logging includes any illegal practice that is related to the harvest, processing, and trade of wood. The illegality occurs when provisions of the law are broken anywhere in the supply chain e.g. logging using a license that’s been illegally acquired or within a protected area.
It may also be harvesting above the allowed quotas, employing illegal workers, logs processing without the required licenses, export of products without payment of export duties, or non-payment of taxes. There is a reason why all this is happening: money. According to The Rainforest Foundation US, illegal logging is a 100 Billion (with a B) Dollar industry.
No wonder people are chopping down the trees. Well. The illegal industry has a price. And we all have to pay for it.
In this article, we’ll talk about the environmental impacts of illegal logging.
Table of Contents
- Pollution and Climate Change
- Lower Quality of Life for Indigenous Populations
- Loss of Biodiversity
Pollution and Climate Change
Deforestation and illegal logging play a massive role in greenhouse gas emissions and climate change.
Forests regulate our local climates, and they’re a huge carbon sink as they reduce carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere. Not only does deforestation and illegal logging lead to a lower land area that has forest cover, but they also account for 11 percent of carbon emissions.
Recent studies give even worse news; they suggest that the removal of massive areas of forest impacts climates worldwide. Some models suggest deforestation in Amazon Basin reduces rainfall in Northeast China and US Midwest while increasing rainfall within Northern Europe and Eastern Africa. Forests give rise to cold air around them. Once they’re gone, patterns of air current change which impacts climates worldwide.
Lower Quality of Life for Indigenous Populations
Another negative impact of illegal logging is that it destroys lives, especially of native or local communities. Unable to live with trading and foraging, native populations begin to rely on logging companies for income and food, and they become caught up with modern-day slavery.
Remote communities become just a shadow of how they once were and ancient tribal cultures get eliminated.
Brazil: How Illegal Loggers Fight Against Tribes in the Amazon
South America is the “go-to place” for illegal logging. In fact, 80 % of all the timber in Peru can be directly traced back to such crime.
In 2016, National Geographic wrote a quite interesting article about a conflict in the Amazon rainforest. A huge part of the rainforest is protected in order to keep “normal” people away from the tribes. However, the illegal loggers didn’t really care about that.
To be honest, I can’t describe the situation better than National Geographic. If you want to read more about how criminals deliberately put fire to reserved areas in order to steal the timber from vulnerable tribes: be my guest. In fact, it’s one of the saddest stories I have ever read.
These people have literally no shame.
Vice News: Youtube documentary about the industry in the Amazon
This Youtube clip from Vice NEWS tells the same story. Amazon tribes have built up their community for hundreds of years – only to have their surroundings completely destroyed by greedy illegal loggers.
PS! The video is 20 minutes long, but you can see the first five minutes to understand what it’s all about:
Loss of Biodiversity
The practice of illegal logging throughout the world is also an object of concern for
biodiversity. Flora and fauna that are already endangered species are being pushed much closer to extinction from the widespread habitat fragmentation and destruction. The extension rate today has reached up to 10,000 times to what’s the biological normal (1 to 10 species a year).
This means the biodiversity loss due to illegal logging equates to catastrophic events like huge volcanic eruptions and meteor impacts. According to scientists, it can be concluded that this is just the beginning. ‘Extension debt,’ a term used within scientific circles, describes the fact that the extension of species comes with a time lag.
The full impact of deforestation and illegal logging can’t be seen for years to come.
Are there any animals that are currently under threat of extinction due to illegal logging?
Yep. Quite a lot of them. However, the most famous ones, according to WWF, are:
- Sumatran Elephant.
- Bornean Pygmy Elephant
- Sumatran Rhino.
All these animals have in common that they are living in Indonesia. Palm oil production is among the largest contributors to financing illegal loggers. Deforestation is only one of the reasons why palm oil production is bad for the environment. It also includes:
– Increases air pollution in the areas around the forest. This will hurt a lot of animals – especially those with small lungs.
– Animals have their habitats destroyed and literally wiped out.
– Due to palm oil production, Indonesia has now become a country with one of the largest CO2 emissions in the world.
Luckily, supermarkets like Iceland (UK) have already banned palm oil products.
There are also social and economic effects of illegal logging. Among the best solutions is to promote forest stewardship programs. Councils and programs work effectively in the management of forests by tracking timber sales, transportation, and harvesting.
Stewardship programs also help with the protection of vulnerable forests from further degradation because of conversion into farmlands or encroachments. In order for forest stewardship programs to be effective, it’s essential for the timber industry and limber mills to contribute to monitoring and curtailing black markets. Spreading the word on the negative effects of illegal logging can also help address the matter.