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The act or process of clearing (permanently removing) trees and related undergrowth from a forest. Deforestation permanently eliminates forests in order to utilize the land for other uses (see illustration). Typically, forests are cleared in order to expand farming, ranching, logging, and other land development operations. Although forests currently cover approximately 30% of the land area of the Earth, the degree of deforestation is proceeding at a tremendously rapid pace, with attendant harm to the quality of the land and to the Earth's environmental health. Forest losses today total about 129,500 km2 (50,000 mi2) per year. In fact, it is estimated that all of the rainforests of the world will disappear within 100 years if the present-day rate of deforestation does not abate. See also: Conservation of resources; Forest and forestry; Forest ecosystem; Land-use planning; Plant geography; Rainforest; Tree
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