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Deforestation and Biodiversity - Nur Durmaz

It is said that the Amazon rain forest, one of the most famous forests in the world, no longer produces oxygen as before, and the rate of carbon dioxide production is higher than the production of oxygen. The researchers noted that the Amazon forest was a carbon sink that previously absorbed emissions that caused the climate crisis but is now accelerating. There seems to be a paradox because this increased carbon dioxide level is due to the excess heat caused by the climate crisis. Considering that one of the causes of the climate crisis is the decreasing forest areas, the cause of the carbon crisis created by this giant forest is connected to a vicious circle. Most of the emissions were caused by fires, many of which were deliberately prepared to clear land for beef and soybean production. But even without fires, higher temperatures and droughts have shown that the Southeast Amazon has become a source of CO₂.

According to World Wildlife Foundation (WWF) data, agriculture is the main cause of deforestation, and poorly planned infrastructure poses a major threat. Also, the main cause of forest degradation is illegal logging. In 2019, the tropics lost 30 football fields worth of trees every minute. A researcher from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Dr. Carvalho Resende, claims that agricultural activities and illegal logging are two of the biggest threats to forests. Still, he added that forest fires have a negative impact as well. UNESCO stated that forest fires that spread over large areas in Siberia, the USA, and Australia caused tens of millions of tons of carbon dioxide in the past years. Dr. Carvalho Resende said that this was a cycle. More carbon emissions mean more forest fires, and more forest fires mean more carbon emissions.

Between 2011 and 2020, 26,311 forest fires broke out in Turkey, and the number of fires in this period was 2,631. However, while an average of 20,760 hectares of land was exposed to fire every year between 2008 and 2020 in Turkey, this amount increased by 755% in the last 2021, and it was seen that the forest area was ash between January and August reached 177 thousand 476 hectares.

When forests are cut down or burned, the stored carbon is released into the atmosphere, mainly as carbon dioxide. Between 2015 and 2017, the global loss of tropical forests released about 4.8 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide per year (or about 8-10% of annual human carbon dioxide emissions). The less forested areas mean an increase in greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, and global warming will be faster and more severe. The quickest and simplest solution to deforestation is to stop the felling and burning of trees.

Healthy ecosystems and biodiversity provide us with many essential features that we consider natural. Plants regenerate by making the energy from the sun available to other life forms. Bacteria and other living organisms break down organic matter into nutrients that provide healthy soil for plants to grow and ensure healthy food production. Woodlands and oceans act as major carbon sinks. In short, biodiversity provides us with clean air, fresh water, quality soil, and crop pollination. It helps to fight climate change and take measures for it. It also reduces the impact of natural hazards. But for a healthy ecosystem, healthy forests are required. For this reason, deforestation is the enemy of biodiversity and ecosystems.

Despite continued efforts, biodiversity is deteriorating worldwide, and this decline is predicted to worsen. The UN Conference on Biodiversity will bring together governments worldwide to agree on a new set of goals for nature over the next decade, with the post-2020 Convention on Biological Diversity framework process. The Framework sets out an ambitious plan to implement broad-based actions to transform society's relationship with biodiversity and ensure that by 2050 the shared vision of living in harmony with nature is fulfilled.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry of Turkey has published an important progress plan. The routes to be followed in 2018-2028 are written under the "National Biodiversity Action Plan." This plan aims at the 14th goal for sustainable development: the conservation and sustainable use of the oceans, seas, and marine resources. In addition, the 15th development goal aims to restore and sustainably use terrestrial ecosystems as a whole, fight against deforestation, and prevent and improve land degradation.

According to the Biodiversity Congress, the main pressures on Turkey's agricultural biodiversity include "improper use of farmland, inappropriate irrigation and farming methods, unconscious use of agricultural inputs, the crossing of local breeds with foreign breeds with economic value, and deficiencies in land registry and cadastre." Furthermore, there are also threats to steppe ecosystems caused by the destructive effects of infrastructure and superstructure. These are over-collection of economically valuable plants and false and unconscious deforestation, and overgrazing. Turkey has participated in many strategic plans, such as Aichi Biodiversity Targets. Considering that Turkey is a country with goals such as the 2030 Sustainable Development Plan and what it should do as a candidate country for the European Union, it is questioned whether enough efforts are made to increase biodiversity and forest area in Turkey. But unfortunately, due to the lack of awareness in Turkey and the world, most of these plans fell through due to forest fires, destruction of agricultural lands, and environmental pollution.

Many organizations, such as the United Nations, have tried to do their part. Still, as long as people's desire for consumption continues, it has become more difficult to make a sustainable plan with the increasing population. Already, Turkey's numerically increasing forest area data should only be seen as green areas because the numerically productive area rate is less than in previous years. At this point, the things to consider are fertile, fertile lands left for future generations and strategically thoughtful planning.

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