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Name: amj
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Why are the rain forests being burnt?

I understand that the rain forests are being burnt in order to provide short term farm/grazing land for squatters. By short term I mean that the burnt land provides a farming/grazing resource only for a few years and then it cannot be used anymore. It takes decades for the forest growth to return to the burned area, while all the other places are being burned out to provide another year or two of useful land.


Good question. There are many reasons. Woodford responded that it is for n short term farm/grazing land for squatters". It is true that rain forests are being burnt for farming and grazing land. This practice has been common for thousands of years and is not necessarily harmful. Small groups of indigenous people can survive indefinitely by clearing and burning a small area, planting a garden, and then moving on after a few years when the soil fertility declines to the point where plants do not grow well. These small plots cultivated by "swidden" horticulturists recover to original wild vegetation within a few years, and are not a threat to the long-term viability of the rain forest ecosystem.

However, the last few decades have seen a different kind of "slash-and-burn" agriculture taking place: commercial cattle herders will clear huge tracts of forest in order to allow grasses and shrubs to grow for animal fodder. The cattle are grazed for a few years and then taken to market and sold for a profit. The practice is very profitable because forest land is cheap, and sometimes governments of tropical countries just give it away. However, tropical soils are very poor and cannot sustain growth for more than a few years without the rain forest cover to recycle nutrients rapidly. When a large area is cleared, the wild forest around the edges cannot reclaim the whole area very quickly so large clearings take longer to recover than small plots. If all the wild forest is cleared, the land may never again be productive.

Don Libby

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