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Forest degradation and fragmentation

Forest degradation is different from deforestation. Degradation is used to mean the destruction or reduction in quality of specific aspects of forests. Prolonged degradation can wipe out a forest. Degradation can result in a decrease in tree cover, changes in their structure or a reduction in the number of species that can be found there. If acid rain destroys trees in a vast area, it can be called forest degradation.

Forest degradation is the changes within the forest which negatively affect the structure or function of the stand or site, and thereby lower the capacity to supply products and/or services. FAO (2001) – Global Forest Resources Assessment 2000

Forest degradation can be caused by factors such as

forest pointForest fires:
In many forests such as in boreal and dry tropical forests, fires are usually expected from time to time. They may be caused by humans, accidents or natural factors. Forests fires wipe out many thousands of acres each year all over the world. This has effects on biodiversity and the economy as well.

forest pointClimate Change:
Extreme climates can also cause degradation. Prolonged droughts and dry conditions reduce the tree cover and dry out water bodies running through them. They force many animals to migrate and reduce the quality of forests ecosystems.

forest pointPests and diseases:
Pest or disease outbreak can also destroy the vegetative cover in forest lands.

Degraded forests can often be restored. The Global Partnership on Forest Landscape Restoration (GPFLR, undated) suggested that more than one billion hectares of deforested and degraded forest land worldwide are suitable and available for restoration.

What is forest fragmentation?

fragmented forest patches

Degradation can also result in forest fragmentation, and fragmentation can also result in degradation. This is when a large forest ends up divided into many smaller patches. This is particularly not healthy for larger forest animals, as they thrive well in large areas rather than pieces of forests.

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forests information for children