Deforestation has become a major issue around the world as trees are being cut down faster than they can be replanted. This past summer, Canada became the world’s leader in deforestation. Canada’s native Boreal Forest is in severe danger, as are others worldwide, including the Amazon and Mangroves throughout Asia.
Forests are extremely important because they help trap carbon dioxide and keep the air clean. They are also vital ecosystems, and many different species of animals rely on them for survival.
Earlier this month, during the United Nations climate summit in New York, Norway announced that it had formed a deal with Liberia to stop deforestation throughout the West African country. In exchange for $150 million (USD) dollars over the next six years, Liberia has agreed to stop deforestation and illegal logging activities, and also place up to 30 percent of its forests under protective laws by 2020.
The funds from Norway will help create programs to halt illegal activities, fund support staff, and support efforts of overall conversation. The goal is to ensure protection status for forests while reducing greenhouse gas emissions produced by deforestation, and ensure that these ecosystems remain intact. Norway will also be responsible for helping Liberia establish a sustainable system to monitor the forests and enforce protection rules.
While funding will undoubtedly help fund these programs, some critics have said that it will not ensure that corruption stays in check. Some illegal activities may still occur, and effective, vigilant practices will need to be enforced.
Although conservation and protection are major goals of this deal, connections between deforestation and the recent outbreak of the Ebola virus have also been made. Some researchers believe that the illegal logging activities occurring in Liberia have allowed for infected bats – which live in forested areas – to come in contact with large portions of the population as they have been pushed out and away from their natural homes. With so many trees being cut down, the bats have been forced into populated areas, which potentially helped perpetuate the spread of the Ebola virus. By ensuring that natural habitats remain intact, the chances of wildlife coming in direct contact with humans in heavily populated areas will be reduced.
The area, which is currently the largest rainforest in West Africa, is also home to many threatened and endangered species, including forest elephants and leopards. If illegal logging continues, these animals could become extinct. With government-protected areas, they will once again be able to thrive and hopefully reproduce to increase populations.
A similar partnership was also formed with Peru, with funding from both Norway and Germany. While it will focus on halting deforestation, the deal also focuses on promoting and ensuring indigenous rights in land ownership and environmental protection.