Forest and Agriculture

People often clear forests so they can use the land for agriculture, or farming. Indeed, this is the main reason people clear forests.

However, forest and trees are very important for agriculture. Often, crops are healthier when they are near forests and trees.

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An ecosystem is a community of living and non-living things. All the things in an ecosystem support each other, through activities called “ecosystem services”. Ecosystem services happen naturally. We cannot see these ecosystem services, so maybe we don’t know they are there – and we don’t know when we damage them.

How do forests help agriculture?

Forests and trees do not only stand around, doing nothing. They are very busy, performing ecosystem services. Here are some ecosystem services that are good for agriculture:

Water quality and quantity: Forests help clean water. They stop soil from entering the water and they turn pollutants into
less harmful substances. Tree roots and leaf litter change the condition of the soil, so the soil can take in and hold more
water. Therefore, planting trees among crops can help water flows and improve the storage of water in the ground.

Pollination: Many crops require pollination to reproduce. Pollination is the process where pollen is moved from one plant to another. Insects, such as bees, do this most often, although some other animals do it too. Forests and trees provide a home for these insects. If these insects have no home near the crops, the crops do not get natural pollination. Some crops become very weak without pollination services, especially coffee, cacao,] tea, nuts, fruits and edible oils such as oil palm.

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Pest control: Pests can damage or even kill a crop. However, other animals help get rid of pests. For example, birds and bats eat pests. But these birds and bats need somewhere to live, and forests give them a home. If a farm has natural pest control, there is no need to spend money on pesticides. Pesticides are bad for the environment. They are also bad for the health of humans and animals.

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Soil fertility: Crops perform better if the soil is healthy and rich in nutrients. When tree leaves and branches fall to the ground and decompose, they give the soil more nutrients. In this way, trees and forests help make the soil healthier. If the soil is healthy naturally, there is no need to spend money on fertilizers. Chemical fertilizers cause pollution of the soil and water. Some fertilizers contribute to climate change because they contain nitrous oxide, which is a potent greenhouse gas.

Chemical fertilizers cause pollution of the soil and water. Some fertilizers contribute to climate change because they contain nitrous oxide, which is a potent greenhouse gas.

How can agriculture help natural ecosystems?

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Ecosystems help agriculture, but agriculture can harm ecosystems. There are ways to reduce this harm. These are good for farmers, because helping ecosystems can boost a farm’s productivity. Here are some ways to make a difference:

  • Adopt good agricultural practices.
  • Plant trees on farms, in fallows, among crops and in home gardens.
  • Conserve forest areas near farms.
  • Avoid the use of harmful fertilizers and pesticides.