Deforestation: a Botanist’s View

  • Ghillean T. Prance


Deforestation has become a familiar term in the latter half of the 1980s, and many people react as if it were a new discovery. In fact it has been a problem since the origin of agriculture when man began to clear the forests to plant crops. This in turn enabled him to enlarge the population size and therefore, the tendency to deforest has continued and increased. Rather than turn straight to the forests of Brazil or Malaysia, we need to begin nearer to home and realize that when the Romans reached Britain it was largely a forested island, and that the scenery which we think of as rural today with its farmland, hedges and downs, is artificial. Hannibal did not have to travel to Central or Southern Africa to obtain elephants for his famous attempt to cross the Alps because these animals roamed the forested areas of North Africa just across the Mediterranean Sea from Italy. Israel is a semi-desert country because it was deforested in Biblical times. The result of forest loss in the Middle East and North Africa is obvious, the increase of desert.


Soil Loss Tropical Rainforest Species Loss Forested Island Sugar Cane Field 
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Copyright information

© Ghillean T. Prance 1990

© Editorial matter and selection © D.J.R. Angell, J.D. Comer, M.L.N. Wilkinson 1990; Foreword © Gro Harlem Brundtland 1990; Endangered Earth © Sir Shridath S. Ramphal 1990; Threatened Islands © Richard Grove 1990; The Changing Climate and Problems of Prediction © Stephen H. Schneider 1990; Acid Precipitation © Matthew Wilkinson and Sarah Woodin 1990; Deforestation © Ghillean T. Prance 1990; Agricultural Pollution © Jules N. Pretty 1990; Halocarbons and Stratospheric Ozone © J.C. Farman 1990; Changes in Perception © Martin Holdgate 1990; Religion and the Environment © David Gosling 1990; Industry and the Environment © Chris Hampson 1990; OECD Nations and Sustainable Development © Charles Caccia 1990; Common Future — Common Challenge © Christopher Patten 1990; Environmental Advance and the European Community © Stanley Clinton Davis 1990; The United Nations System and Sustainable Development © Javier Perez de Cuellar 1990; Diplomacy and Sustainable Development © Sir Crispin Tickell 1990; Interpreting the Signals © Sir Arthur Norman 1990; Sustainable Development © Jim MacNeill 1990.

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  • Ghillean T. Prance

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