Deforestation is the removal of a forest or stand of trees where the land is thereafter converted to a nonforest use. Examples of deforestation include conversion of forestland to farms, ranches, or urban use.
The term deforestation is often misused to describe any activity where all trees in an area are removed. However in temperate climates, the removal of all trees in an area—in conformance with sustainable forestry practices—is correctly described as regeneration harvest. In temperate mesic climates, natural regeneration of forest stands often will not occur in the absence of disturbance, whether natural or anthropogenic. Furthermore, biodiversity after regeneration harvest often mimics that found after natural disturbance, including biodiversity loss after naturally occurring rainforest destruction.
Deforestation occurs for many reasons: trees or derived charcoal are used as, or sold, for fuel or as timber, while cleared land is used as pasture for livestock, plantations of commodities, and settlements. The removal of trees without sufficient reforestation has resulted in damage to habitat, biodiversity loss and aridity. It has adverse impacts on biosequestration of atmospheric carbon dioxide. Deforestation has also been used in war to deprive an enemy of cover for its forces and also vital resources. A modern example of this, for example, was the use of Agent orange in Vietnam. Deforested regions typically incur significant adverse soil erosion and frequently degrade into wasteland.
Disregard or ignorance of intrinsic value, lack of ascribed value, lax forest management and deficient environmental laws are some of the factors that allow deforestation to occur on a large scale. In many countries, deforestation, both naturally occurring and human induced, is an ongoing issue. Deforestation causes extinction, changes to climatic conditions, desertification, and displacement of populations as observed by current conditions and in the past through the fossil record.
Among countries with a per capita GDP of at least US$4,600, net deforestation rates have ceased to increase.