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Deforestation in connection with the construction of a hydroelectric powerplant
Deforestation is the felling of naturally occurring forest, so any logging activities in commercial forests do not fall under this definition. It is a major issue in the few remaining tropical rainforests in the world, such as the Amazon rainforest, the Congo basin and the rainforest in Southeast Asia. Studies have shown that human activities have had a major impact on natural vegetation over the last 300 years.

Rainforests play a major role in the global carbon cycle, by taking up CO2 from the air and converting it into oxygen. This has been acknowledged for a few decades now. Not only do they take up CO2 from the air, they also release a large amount of carbon when felled or burned, since the carbon concentration in forests is higher than in agricultural crops or pasture, and most of the carbon in rainforests is stored in the standing biomass rather than in the soil.

Moreover, the forests in the tropics harbour a wealth of plants and animals, many of which haven’t been discovered yet, and live only in that specific location. It is estimated that more than 5 million plant and animal species, and possibly even 30 million species, are living in rainforests. Deforestation leads to the destruction of their habitat, which could lead to a mass-scale extinction. Invasion of other, unknown, fauna and flora can lead to the disappearance of species that are not adapted to this kind of competition.

Large-scale deforestation in the tropics also affects the people that live there. It causes a disruption of their traditional lifestyle, because they often live off their natural environments. Deforestation not only leads to the disappearance of their resources, the conversion to agricultural land also leads to environmental pollution due to the use of pesticides. When forced to move to another region because their land is being converted to agricultural fields, they often face discrimination when it comes to sovereignty and land rights. Also, since they have never been in contact with many of our infectious diseases, they do not have the antibodies necessary to fight the infection.  
Map of the state of Rondonia
Map of the state of Rondonia, next to the border of Bolivia
Rondonia (Brazil)
When it comes to deforestation, the Amazon rainforest is often mentioned, since large areas of this forest have disappeared over the past decades.

The state of Rondonia in Brazil is a good example of the process of deforestation in the Amazon rainforest. Rondonia is a state in the west of Brazil, at the border with Bolivia.

There are many different causes of such large-scale deforestation. In most tropical countries, the main reason behind the clearing of forests is the need for unspoiled land for agricultural development. This mostly means the establishment of permanent farms, either small or large scale. They are usually located along roads in the rainforest, leading to the fishbone pattern. Historically, forest has been cleared because of the need for pastureland and for commercial logging. This large-scale deforestation in Brazil started in the 1980’s, with the appearance of new roads in the dense tropical forests.


Deforestation in Rondonia
Exercise 1: Inspecting the imagesExercise 2: Quantifying the deforested area
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