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Isaac Newton School Geography Department

What is the impact of humans in the tropical rainforest?

Human activities in the


rainforest, such as logging,
farming and mining, can have
a significant impact on the
ecosystem. Figure 1 is a
simple diagram showing an
area of rainforest unaffected
by humans. The vegetation
ensures the continued
survival of the ecosystem.

Figure 2 shows the


consequences of human
activity in the rain forest.

Figure 1 Figure 2
Vegetation in the rainforest ensures the survival of the Once vegetation in the tropical rainforest is removed the
rainforest. Decaying vegetation, e.g. leaves, provides ecosystem collapses. The nutrient cycle breaks down. So
nutrients for the relatively unfertile soil. Evapotranspiration the soil rapidly becomes infertile especially as nutrients are
from the vegetation provides moisture in the atmosphere, leached away. This leads to increased soil erosion due to
which feeds the heavy afternoon rains. The dense the lack of vegetation cover. Also, carbon dioxide levels in
vegetation cover and root systems protect the soil from the atmosphere increase because the gas released when
erosion. the vegetation is burned. In addition to this the vegetation
no longer absorbs carbon dioxide.
Figure 1. Figure 2.
GeoNet internetgeography @ www.internetgeography.co.uk A. Bennett
Isaac Newton School Geography Department

1. Give examples of three human activities, which have a negative impact on the rainforest.
Forest clearance by fire in order for cattle ranching releases more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere which contributes
to environmental pollution which leads to global warming. Another human activity is the construction of dams used to
generate hydroelectric power. This is a serious cause of rainforest pollution. Flooding can occur which can uproot more
trees in the rainforest. Oil related activities also pollute rainforests e.g. Ecuador rainforest pollution by Texaco oil
operations.

2. The flow diagram below shows the impact of humans in the tropical rainforest. Copy and complete it.
Erratic Animal habitats destroyed.
precipitation
patterns
Increased levels of CO2.

Soil erosion
The topsoil is exposed to
Deforestation rainfall.
Nutrients in the soil are
leached away.

Levels of Drought
evapotranspiration Less moisture in the
decrease. atmosphere.

Human activity in the


Rainfall and humidity levels Vegetation is set on fire. Increased soil erosion. rainforest removes
decrease. vegetation.

3. Deforestation causes reduced evapotranspiration, increased carbon dioxide levels and the leaching of minerals.
Describe how each occurs and then explain the problems each will cause. An example answer using soil erosion has
been written below to help you complete this exercise.

GeoNet internetgeography @ www.internetgeography.co.uk A. Bennett


Isaac Newton School Geography Department
“Human activities in the rainforest such as farming, logging and mining involve removing the natural vegetation. When
vegetation is removed there is little protection for the soil. The vegetation no longer acts like an umbrella protecting the
soil from heavy rain. Also, roots are removed which mean the soil becomes loose. As a result heavy rainfall washes the
soil away.

This causes many problems. The topsoil, the most fertile land in the rainforest, is removed. Therefore it will be difficult for
the rainforest to re-establish itself. Also, the increased run-off (water flowing over the land) causes flooding.”

Deforestation does lead to evapotranspiration. This is because there are less trees in the rainforest and due to this
transpirations levels decrease because the amount of water given out by the plants is less. This is because for this
process to take place plants in this case trees are not present. Increases carbon dioxide levels will occur because trees
are carbon sinks and due to this the increased burning in the forests will lead to this. Leaching of minerals will occur
because trees are no longer anchoring and binding the soil and so mud slides may take place. The earth is leached of
minerals by the large amounts of water due to this.

GeoNet internetgeography @ www.internetgeography.co.uk A. Bennett