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For example, 90 percent of continental United States' indigenous forest has been removed since 1600, according to the University of Michigan.The World Resources Institute estimates that most of the world's remaining indigenous forest is located in Canada, Alaska, Russia and the Northwestern Amazon basin.When they are degraded, it can set off a devastating chain of events both locally and around the world.
Deforestation is the second largest anthropogenic (human-caused) source of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere (after fossil fuel combustion), ranging between 6 percent and 17 percent, according to a study published in 2009 in Nature.
Carbon isn't the only greenhouse gas that is affected by deforestation. "The impact of deforestation on the exchange of water vapor and carbon dioxide between the atmosphere and the terrestrial land surface is the biggest concern with regard to the climate system," said Daley.
Deforestation occurs around the world, though tropical rainforests are particularly targeted.
If current deforestation levels proceed, the world's rainforests may completely vanish in as little as 100 years, according to National Geographic.
The ash from the burned trees provides some nourishment for the plants and the land is weed-free from the burning.
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When the soil becomes less nourishing and weeds begin to reappear over years of use, the farmers move on to a new patch of land and begin the process again.
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.
The WWF states that scientists estimate that a third of the world's arable land has been lost to deforestation since 1960.
After a clear cutting, cash crops like coffee, soy and palm oil are planted.