Military exercises are boosting biodiversity, according to a study of land used for US training manoeuvres in Germany. Such land has more endangered species than nearby national parks.
The land is uncultivated, but also churned up by tank tracks and explosions. This creates habitat both for species that prefer pristine lands and those that require disturbed ground, explains ecologist Steven Warren of Colorado State University in Fort Collins.
Military land can host more species than agricultural land, Warren told a meeting of the Ecological Society of America in Montreal. What's more, its biodiversity can also exceed that of natural parks, where species that need disturbance cannot get a foothold.
Warren and his colleague Reiner Błttner of the Institute of Botany and Landscape Ecology in Hemhofen, Germany, surveyed two US military bases at Grafenwoehr and Hohenfels in the southern state of Bavaria. Although the bases represent less than 1% of the state's area, they contain 22% of its endangered species, Warren told the meeting. The national parks cover a similar area but host fewer endangered plants and animals, Warren says.
Warren and Błttner studied several species to try and understand the benefits of military ground. One, the natterjack toad, breeds in water-filled ruts created by tank tracks, they found.
The tendency when setting aside a nature reserve is to prevent disturbances such as periodic flooding, says Warren. But this can inadvertently remove some habitats.
"[Tanks] replace to some degree the processes that have been stopped," Warren says. The same goes for fires caused by bombing. "We've trained generations of people that fire is bad," he says, "but in fact it's crucial for ecosystems."
Might this study make it's way into a Rummy press conference?
Of course, there are plenty of examples where man disrupts nature and nature flourishes anyway. Nothing's exploding, but in Prudhoe Bay the caribou
don't seem to mind the Alaskan pipeline.
And here's Jane Shaw of PERC
on wildlife in suburbia:
A decade ago, who would have thought that New Jersey would host a black bear hunt--the first in 33 years? Or that Virginia, whose population of bald eagles was once down to 32 breeding pairs, would have 329 known active bald eagle nests? Who would have expected Metropolitan Home magazine to be advising its readers about ornamental grasses to keep away white-tailed deer, now found in the millions around the country?
Such incidents illustrate a transformed America. This nation, often condemned for being crowded, paved over, and studded with nature-strangling shopping malls, is proving to be a haven for wild animals.
It is difficult to ignore this upsurge of wildlife, because stories about bears raiding trashcans and mountain lions sighted in subdivisions frequently turn up in the press or on television.
Featured in these stories are animals as large as moose, as well as once-threatened birds such as eagles and falcons and smaller animals like wolverines and coyotes.
One interpretation of these events is that people are moving closer to wilderness and invading the territory of wild animals. But this is only a small part of the story. As this essay will show, wild animals increasingly find suburban life in the United States to be attractive.
Whole thing here