Thursday, May 7, 2009

Effects of warfare on soil development

The influence of the physical environment on the outcome of battle is well-known but not the effects of warfare upon the environment particularly the soil. In view of this Hupy and Schaetzl (2008) studied the WWI battlefield of Verdun, France (1916). The battlefield which encompasses an area of 29,000 km2, remains one of the most heavily shelled of all time. Their findings revealed that many craters penetrated the shallow limestone bedrock, and blasted out fragments of limestone found on nearby undisturbed soils had already been incorporated into the soil profile. Although the battle happened less than a century ago (88 years), weathering and pedogenesis have already occurred in the soils within the craters. A major pedogenic process noted by the researchers is the accumulation and decomposition of organic matter, which is intimately associated with (and aided by) earthworm bioturbation (soil mixing). The study shows that warfare can cause dramatic changes in the soil and landscape. It also "provides insight into the ability of a landscape to recover following a catastrophic anthropogenic disturbance” wrote Hupy and Schaetzl.


Hupy JP and RJ Schaetzl. 2008. Soil development on the WWI battlefield of Verdun, France. Geoderma 145: 37-49

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