Use War to Restore

by Natalia Greenidge on February 20, 2014

Biodiversity is the variety of life in the world or in a particular habitat or ecosystem

Biodiversity is the variety of life in the world or in a particular habitat or ecosystem

When the world’s military training camps come into play some of the first words that may come to mind are war, violence, death, guns, fighting, danger and other words with negative connotations. Words that certainly aren’t the first to pop up in one’s head are “improves biodiversity”. Surprisingly, some military camps around the world, ones that are in use and unused, help to increase and support biodiversity of plants and animals both in and around the camps.

This increased biodiversity is a result of heterogeneous disturbance explained in the heterogeneous disturbance hypothesis. The hypothesis states “biodiversity is maximized where multiple kinds, frequencies, severities, periodicities, size, shapes, and/or duration of disturbance occur concomitantly in a spatially and temporarily distributed fashion” (Warren et. al., 2007). The different kinds, severities, duration and the other factors listed in the hypothesis serve as the disturbances that make the affected land heterogeneous (more disturbed in some areas and less disturbed in others). These disturbances can range from soil displacement, to fires, to flooding.

With more or less disruption come classifications for the plants and animals that do and don’t depend on the disruptions. Disturbance-adverse organisms are organisms that don’t benefit from or favor environmental disturbance. These organisms prefer the land as-is and would utilize the parts of military training camps that aren’t used for training. Disturbance-dependent organisms are organisms that do benefit from and favor environmental disturbance. Disturbance-dependent organisms would occupy areas of military training camps that are utilized more because they thrive off of the disruption of the land. Such a disruption may be the soil irritation and displacement from military vehicles and personnel traveling back and forth; this disruption may be beneficial to certain species of birds that get their nutrition from seeds, insects, etc. in the ground that they may not normally have access to. This ground irritation makes getting food easier, causing these birds to be disturbance-dependent.

A major dilemma that occurs after military troops leave these training camps is figuring out who or what will provide the disturbance in the environment in order to sustain the biodiversity increase. Countries with military training camps, such as Germany, Denmark and the U.S. could invest in different ways to continue the disturbances. However, if I were a country official I wouldn’t want to exhaust funds just to make sure that some dirt is thrown around and a few minor fires are started. It seems like a waste of people’s time, energy and most importantly, money. On the other hand, as a country’s official, I would want to see the biodiversity in these ecosystems grow and flourish, especially since “Department of Defense land provide habitat for 3-18 times more threatened and endangered species per unit area than managed by the other major federal land management” (Warren et. al., 2007). This trade-off is one commonly encountered by governments when trying to outline a heterogeneous disturbance regime.

Overall the relationship between heterogeneous disturbance and biodiversity is very interesting, but does seems a little ironic. A place that trains people to partake in activity that could potentially take lives and destroy environments helps to make lives and build stronger habitats. Results such as these are also surprising considering the fact that some military training can greatly damage and disturb the surrounding organisms and their habitats. Conclusively, the relationship between heterogeneous disturbance and biodiversity is no doubt an unforeseen and unexpected one, but it is also one that cannot and should not be ignored when it can help to improve habitats and repopulate endangered species.

Warren, S. D., et al. (2007). Biodiversity and the heterogeneous disturbance regime on military training lands. Restoration Ecology, 15, 606-612. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1526-100X.2007.00272.x/full. doi: 10.1111/j.1526-100X.2007.00272.x


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