Forest conversion is the removal of forest cover resulting in the modification of forest landscapes and loss of habitat and biodiversity.
Loss of floral and faunal biodiversity may be attributed to
factors including permanent conversion of natural forests into other land-use
forms such as forest and agriculture monoculture plantations etc. Widespread conversion
of natural forest lands into homogeneous stands tends to accelerate the natural
succession process which ultimately results in the erosion of genetic
materials. Significant habitat fragmentation and modification arising from such
conversion may alter local environmental conditions that invariable determine
the distribution of both fauna and flora. Though the establishment of commercial
plantations may bring tremendous economic benefits to the nation, its impacts on
biodiversity may be disastrous as indigenous species are outcompeted and displaced
by fast-growing introduced species which do not have any natural control agents
to hold their populations in check.
Similar observations have been made in relation to woody forest species where fast-growing exotics such as Leucaenia leucocephala, the gregarious neem tree, Azadirachta indica, etc., have spread vigorously throughout the savanna zones displacing virtually all indigenous plant species.
The same factors that account for the loss of plant biodiversity may result in decline and loss of animal biodiversity.