APRIL 1982 - VOLUME 3 - NUMBER 4
This collection of 14 essays describes tropical forest destruction, analyzing specific causes and suggesting methods of preservation and maintenance of tropical moist forest reserves. The contributions discuss Amazonia, Africa, and Indo-Malaysia, the major regions where such forests are found.
Norman Myers, recently a scientific coordinator for a U.N. meeting of experts on tropical forests, overviews the issue, identifying the techniques, agents, magnitude, and consequences of deforestation. He cites preliminary calculations that possibly 100,000 square miles of forest are being affected each year by "conversion" through commercial logging, forest farming, and cattle ranching, in many cases carried out by foreign-owned business interests. The costs - in terms of depletion of timber resources, soil erosion, and the "impending loss of a large portion of the earth's stock of species" - will represent a "biological debacle," Myers warns.
William M. Denevan, Stephen G. Bunker, and Susanna B. Hecht describe deforestation in Amazonia. Denevan examines the basic types of swidden agriculture (shifting cultivation), which he pinpoints as the most direct cause of forest removal. As a goal for tropical land management he advances a proposal for agroforestry in which shifting cultivation would be integrated with perennial plants and livestock so as to protect the soil, naturally maintain the nutrient cycle and flora diversity, while providing adequate subsistence and some specialized commercial production.
Bunker investigates the impact of deforestation on five rural peasant communities in the Amazon basin of Brazil. He describes how market pressures generated by rapid urbanization lead to deforestation and cattle pasture formation, consequently limiting subsistence and income opportunities for the region's peasants and forcing many to move to shanty towns surrounding the urban centers.
Hecht details the contents of Amazonia's soils and the land's reaction to cultivation and conservation. She concludes that the soil is generally poor and unstable and that land mismanagement, which she describes as having economic and social causes, can destroy the agricultural environment. She sees the major question in Amazonian deforestation as not how much land has been cleared, but whether strategies can be developed "to meet the pressing needs in the Amazon countries for food production, employment, income and social stability."
The continent of Africa is represented by papers on two countries: Ghana and Gabon. K. Twun-Barima calculates past and possible future growth rates of deforestation in Ghana due to population growth and increasing pressures to surrender more forest for food and commercial crop production. He examines the possiblity of preserving and increasing commercial forest reserves, emphasizing the importance of retaining tree cover so as to preserve the land's fertility cycle. J. Leroy Deval's study, in French, of the forest of Gabon, argues that deforestation has been beneficial, secondary forests being replaced by the hardwood "Okoume," the country's most important export. Faustin Legault's article on Gabon examines the role of reforestation in "economic and social development."
Peter Ashton, Gurmit Singh, Kuswata Kartawinata, and Robert Goodland describe deforestation in Asia. Ashton cites three stages in the deforestation of hill country throughout Asia, and assesses the conditions of forests in various countries. Singh charts the magnitude of the destruction of Malaysia's forests, and examines five forms of social and environmental stress related to deforestation. KarTaiwan analyzes the extent and the environmental consequences of tree removal from the forests in Indonesia and suggests in situ conservation as "the most effective way to prevent the loss of genetic materials." Goodland, of the World Bank, outlines the efforts of the goverment of Indonesia to achieve environmental management and effective control of development within environmental constraints.
A planned companion volume, number 14 in the Studies in Third World Societies series, will contain articles on the loss of genetic reservoirs, the properties and management of soils, effects of deforestation on climate, and potentials for cultivation of "green deserts" which will further explain the implications of tropical moist forest destruction. It will be available by May 1.
The two issues can be obtained together for $17.50 or separately for $10 each, from:
The Editors - Studies in Third World Societies
- Douglas Stone