Between 1960 and 1990 it has been estimated that one fifth of world tropical forest cover was lost by clearance. Although estimates are very difficult to make, there is evidence to suggest that the rate of loss of natural forest in developing countries has slowed between 1990 and 1995. Annual loss between 1990 and 1995 was about 13.7 million hectares (34 million acres), whereas between 1980 and 1990 it was around 15.6 million hectares (38y million acres).

Areas of the Amazon rainforest have been cleared by burning, following which a ground cover of small plants grows quickly, but cannot prevent the rapid erosion of the soil by rain water, the signs of which can be seen in the channels leading down to central gullies. The fast erosion of already nutrient-poor soil makes regeneration of the forest an even more precarious prospect. Agriculture is the main cause of rainforest clearance, although logging operations often precede it. Plantation agriculture is becoming increasingly widespread in tropical areas and results in clearance of the rainforest. Plantations amounted to 40.2 million hectares (100 million acres) in 1980. This figure had doubled by 1995 and is expected to double again by 2010.

Dam-building for hydroelectric power, particularly in those countries with few fossil fuel resources, has occurred. Some schemes can be large, resulting in the submersion of large areas of forest. The Tucuruí Dam in Brazil flooded some 216,000 hectares (534,000 acres) of rainforest and the Bakun Dam in Malaysia flooded 69,500 hectares (171,700 acres).

 one fifth of world tropical forest cover has been lost by clearance.”

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Large-scale deforestation is threatening rainforests

Damage to rainforests