Humanities › History & Culture Deforestation in Asia Share Flipboard Email Print Ulet Ifansasti / Getty Images History & Culture Asian History Basics Figures & Events Southeast Asia East Asia South Asia Middle East Central Asia Asian Wars and Battles American History African American History African History Ancient History and Culture European History Genealogy Inventions Latin American History Medieval & Renaissance History Military History The 20th Century Women's History View More By Kallie Szczepanski History Expert Ph.D., History, Boston University J.D., University of Washington School of Law B.A., History, Western Washington University Dr. Kallie Szczepanski is a history teacher specializing in Asian history and culture. She has taught at the high school and university levels in the U.S. and South Korea. our editorial process Kallie Szczepanski Updated January 08, 2020 We tend to think that deforestation is a recent phenomenon, and in certain parts of the world, that is true. However, deforestation in Asia and elsewhere has been a problem for centuries. The recent trend, actually, has been the transfer of deforestation from the temperate zone to tropical regions. Deforestation Simply put, deforestation is the clearing of a forest or stands of trees to make way for agricultural use or development. It can also result from the cutting of trees by local people for building materials or for fuelwood if they don't replant new trees to replace the ones they use. In addition to the loss of forests as scenic or recreational sites, deforestation causes a number of harmful side effects. Loss of tree cover can lead to soil erosion and degradation. Streams and rivers near deforested sites becoming warmer and hold less oxygen, driving out fish and other organisms. Waterways also can become dirty and silted due to soil eroding into the water. Deforested land loses its ability to take up and store carbon dioxide, a key function of living trees, thus contributing to climate change. In addition, clearing forests destroy habitat for innumerable species of plants and animals, leaving many of them, such as the Chinese unicorn or saola, critically endangered. Deforestation in China and Japan Over the past 4,000 years, China's forest cover has shrunk dramatically. The Loess Plateau region of north-central China, for example, has gone from 53% to 8% forested in that period. Much of the loss in the first half of that time span was due to a gradual shift to a drier climate, a change unrelated to human activity. Over the past two thousand years, and particularly since the 1300s CE, however, humans have consumed ever-increasing amounts of China's trees.