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Nature, severity and persistence of geomorphological damage caused by armed conflict


Kiernan, K, Nature, severity and persistence of geomorphological damage caused by armed conflict, Land Degradation and Development, 26, (4) pp. 380-396. ISSN 1085-3278 (2015) [Refereed Article]

Copyright Statement

Copyright 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

DOI: doi:10.1002/ldr.2216


Proxy conflicts involving local revolutionaries and external forces during the Cold War years caused major damage to the physical landscapes and soils of South East Asia. Using a series of small case studies, this paper assesses some of these impacts of war on the geodiversity of the Lao PDR, and upon some other environmental values and ecosystem services that are dependent upon physical landforms that host or facilitate them. Satellite imagery and ground-based surveys indicate that even after nearly four decades, bomb craters remain discernible at densities that commonly exceed 200/km2 and in some cases exceed 800/km2. This landform damage also implies major loss of soil capital, full recovery from which is likely to take millennia. Very significant damage was also caused by military engineering projects. The results of this study confirm the severe, widespread and long-term nature of the environmental damage that can be inflicted by war. They also demonstrate the potential utility of forensic geomorphology as a tool in the investigation of potential environmental war crimes.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:geodiversity, soil degradation, bomb craters, sustainable development, social justice, environmental war crimes
Research Division:Earth Sciences
Research Group:Physical geography and environmental geoscience
Research Field:Physical geography and environmental geoscience not elsewhere classified
Objective Division:Environmental Management
Objective Group:Other environmental management
Objective Field:Other environmental management not elsewhere classified
UTAS Author:Kiernan, K (Dr Kevin Kiernan)
ID Code:84175
Year Published:2015 (online first 2013)
Web of Science® Times Cited:10
Deposited By:Geography and Environmental Studies
Deposited On:2013-04-24
Last Modified:2017-05-17

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