The Canadian Rocky Mountains in the region around Adams Lake (upper left) in British Columbia constitute one of the richest timber regions in the world. Each light rectangular plot in this scene is a site where timber has been clear-cut, or completely removed. These areas stand out against the darker, densely forested areas surrounding them. The varied orientation of these clear-cut areas is a function of the mountainous landscape. In the long term, the extinction of various species of trees (and nearby wildlife) has been attributed to the invasive practice of clear-cutting.
While scientists have long understood the important role trees and plants play in converting carbon dioxide to oxygen in the respiration process, the long-term effects of deforestation on the gases in the atmosphere are still not known for certain. In the short term, increased runoff typically occurs on the recently denuded land, resulting in increased sediment input to nearby rivers. In addition, the albedo (or reflectivity) of the landscape is increased as the stripped landscape is lighter-colored than the original forest. Climatologists are studying the effects such changes might have on local and regional climate patterns.
August 1989, image STS-28-72-49.