Monthly Archives: February 2016


Hello once again readers. I would like to take this week to talk about deforestation. Deforestation is the conversion of forested areas to non-forest land for use such as arable land, pasture, urban use, logged area, or wasteland. Deforestation can also be seen as removal of forests leading to several imbalances ecologically and environmentally and results in declines in habitat and biodiversity. Urbanization, Mining, Fires, Logging and Agricultural activities are few of the causes of deforestation. Most people think, “How can you be worried about forests? They are all over the place, just look around.” And while it may seem so here, this is not the case everywhere.  According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), an estimated 18 million acres (7.3 million hectares) of forest are lost each year. In the last two decades, Afghanistan has lost over 70% of its forests throughout the country.


Here are some facts about forests:

  • Forests cover 30% of the earth’s land.
  • 13 million hectare (1 hectare = 10,000 square meters) per year in South America and Africa and south East Asia is converted from a forest to an agriculture land.
  • It is estimated that within 100 years there will be norainforests.
  • Agriculture is the leading cause of deforestation
  • One and a half acres of forest is cut down every second.
  • Worldwide more than 1.6 billion people rely on forests products for all or part of their livelihoods.
  • 20% of the world’s oxygen is produced in the Amazon forest.
  • Up to 28,000 species are expected to become extinct by the next quarter of the century due to deforestation.
  • 25% of cancers fighting organisms are found in the amazon.
  • Half of the world’s tropical forests has already been cleared.


The impacts of deforestation are astonishing. The most dramatic impact is a loss of habitat for millions of species. Seventy percent of Earth’s land animals and plants live in forests, and many cannot survive the deforestation that destroys their homes. Tropical rainforests which cover 6-7% of the earth’s surface, contain over half of all the plant and animal species in the world.


Deforestation drives climate change. Forest soils are moist, but without protection from sun-blocking tree cover they quickly dry out. Trees also help perpetuate the water cycle by returning water vapor back into the atmosphere. Without trees to fill these roles, many former forest lands can quickly become barren deserts. Removing trees deprives the forest of portions of its canopy, which blocks the sun’s rays during the day and holds in heat at night. This disruption leads to more extreme temperatures swings that can be harmful to plants and animals.

Trees also play a critical role in absorbing the greenhouse gases that fuel global warming. Fewer forests means larger amounts of greenhouse gases entering the atmosphere—and increased speed and severity of global warming. 300 billion tons of carbon, 40 times the annual greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels, is stored in trees.

The deforestation of trees not only lessens the amount of carbon stored, it also releases carbon dioxide into the air. This is because when trees die, they release the stored carbon. According to the 2010 Global Forest Resources Assessment, deforestation releases nearly a billion tons of carbon into the atmosphere per year, though the numbers are not as high as the ones recorded in the previous decade. Deforestation is the second largest anthropogenic (human-caused) source of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, ranging between 6 percent and 17 percent.


We aren’t helping the situation either. According to Rainforest Action Network, the United States has less than 5% of the world’s population yet consumes more than 30% of the world’s paper. On average, a person in the United States uses seven trees a year in paper, wood, and other products made from trees. This amounts to about 2,000,000,000 trees per year. If everyone recycled a single run of the Sunday New York Times, it would save 75,000 trees. Each ton (2000 pounds) of recycled paper can save 17 trees, 380 gallons of oil, three cubic yards of landfill space, 4000 kilowatts of energy, and 7000 gallons of water. This represents a 64% energy savings, a 58% water savings, and 60 pounds less of air pollution. We can make a difference if we all work together and recycle paper, which most seem to take for granted.


2010 Global Forest Resources Assessment

Light Pollution

I am sure many of you have heard of the phenomenon of light pollution but if you haven’t, you have been experiencing it right here at Penn State. Light pollution occurs generally from outdoor lighting and is excessive, misdirected, or obtrusive artificial light. That’s right, every time you look up at the sky on a clear night and see few to no stars, light pollution is occurring. So what is the big deal? Why does it matter if I can’t see the stars? While you may take the stars for granted, 3 out of every 4 people in cities have never experienced the beauty of pristinely dark skies and over half the world’s population resides in cities. How do you explain the importance of what they’ve lost to light pollution and how can you make them aware that light pollution is a concern on many fronts: safety, energy conservation, cost, health and effects on wildlife, as well as our ability to view the stars? This blog will hope to answer some of these questions.


Why don’t we first take the time to explore the topic of what light pollution is. There are three main types of light pollution. These three are glare, light trespass and skyglow. Glare from unshielded lighting is a public-health hazard—especially the older you become . Glare light scattering in the eye causes loss of contrast, sometimes blinds you temporarily and leads to unsafe driving conditions, for instance. It is the same sensation experienced when looking into the sun and seeing dark spots. Light trespass occurs when unwanted light enters one’s property, for example, by shining unwanted light into a bedroom window of a person trying to sleep. This can lead to sleep disorders and other health problems such as increased headaches, worker fatigue, medically defined stress, some forms of obesity due to lack of sleep and increased anxiety. And ties are being found to a couple of types of cancer. There are also effects of glare on aging eyes.  And lastly, Skyglow refers to the glow effect that can be seen over populated areas. Skyglow is the combination of all the reflected light and upward-directed (unshielded) light escaping up into the sky, blurring the vision of the stars.


This is the least of the impact of light pollution however. Animals are extremely effected by this blinding light. Artificial lighting seems to be taking the largest toll on bird populations. Nocturnal birds use the moon and stars for navigation during their bi-annual migrations. When they fly through brightly-lit area, they become disoriented. The birds often either into brightly lit broadcast towers or buildings or circle them until they drop from exhaustion. According to national geographic, over two consecutive nights in 1954, 50,000 birds died at Warner Robins Air Force Base, Georgia, when they followed lights straight into the ground. And in 1981, over 10,000 birds slammed into floodlit smokestacks at the Hydro Generating Plant near Kingston, Ontario. While this does sound highly comical, this is clucking serious. I mean it though, these species could easily become endangered if this mass bird genocide continues unchecked.

Birds aren’t only ones effected by light pollution though. It also endangers sea turtles. Beaches in sections of Florida’s highly developed coastline are nesting ground for rare loggerhead, leatherback and green sea turtles. Bright lights nearby discourage females from coming ashore to nest. To make matters worse, newly hatched turtles need a dark night sky to orient themselves toward the sea, but artificial lights behind beaches lure them away. Hatchlings are attracted to lights and crawl inland, or crawl aimlessly down the beach, sometimes until dawn, when terrestrial predators or birds swoop down and take them.

TO GO WITH AFP STORY - Baby olive ridley sea turtles (Lepidochelys olivacea) attemp to go into the sea on Ostional beach, in Ostional National Wildlife Refuge, some 300 km north of San Jose, on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica, at dawn of December 1, 2010. The massive arrival know as "arribada" in which about more than 800 thousands turtles come to the shore to spawn is some times accompanied by the birth of hundreds.  AFP  PHOTO/  Yuri CORTEZ (Photo credit should read YURI CORTEZ/AFP/Getty Images)

TO GO WITH AFP STORY – Baby olive ridley sea turtles (Lepidochelys olivacea) attemp to go into the sea on Ostional beach, in Ostional National Wildlife Refuge, some 300 km north of San Jose, on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica, at dawn of December 1, 2010. The massive arrival know as “arribada” in which about more than 800 thousands turtles come to the shore to spawn is some times accompanied by the birth of hundreds. AFP PHOTO/ Yuri CORTEZ (Photo credit should read YURI CORTEZ/AFP/Getty Images)

So what can you do to help stop this from occurring? Why spread the word! Cutting back on lighting helps every little bit. Lighting makess up an immense part of of America’s energy consumption. In 2014, about 412 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity were used for lighting by the residential and commercial sectors in the U.S. This was about 15% of the total electricity consumed by both of these sectors and about 11% of total U.S. electricity consumption.

I hope you found this blog post informative. Thank you for reading.