Why Nature Can Flourish In War Zones

War often devastates natural environments — bombs and bullets can destroy forests, kill animals and contaminate rivers. But human conflict has also protected natural areas, according to conservation biologist Dr. Thor Hanson.

“It’s an unexpected finding in some ways,” the author of The Triumph of Seeds, told The Huffington Post on Tuesday. “But it makes logical sense.” This is because biodiversity can rebound in areas where fighting has reduced human activity, he explained.

The most striking example of a war’s conserving power might be the demilitarized zone separating North and South Korea.

The area commonly known as the DMZ was set up in 1953 after the Korean War to mark the boundary between the two East Asian countries. Although it represents a bloody gash in the region’s history, the zone is now remarkably biodiverse, Hanson said.

“You have several kilometer-wide strip going from coast to coast that is depopulated,” he said. “There’s a de facto park between those counties; all sorts of species are thriving there that have disappeared outside that area.”

Similar conflict-cum-conservation zones exist around the world.

The island of Vieques, Puerto Rico, was a bombing range for the U.S. Navy until 2003. Much of the island was turned into a national wildlife refuge after the navy left. Although bombs decimated marine life around the island, Vieques is now one of the most ecologically diverse areas in the Caribbean, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Several thousand miles south, in the Falkland Islands, penguins thrive among the land mines that litter the countryside. Soldiers laid down nearly 20,000 mines there during the 1982 Falklands War. The minefields have kept people out, but members of the island’s —> Read More