The silent victim of war is how conflicts destroy nature

The reserve is also home to a rare, endangered species of sand rats, Black Sea dolphins, rare flowers, countless mollusks and a wide variety of fish. In recent weeks, an invading army has also settled here.

“Today, the territory of the reserve is occupied by the Russian army,” Oleksandr Krasnoluck, Ukraine’s deputy minister for the environment and natural resources, wrote in an email last month. “We do not currently have information on environmental damage.”

However, military activity in the region has caused such large-scale fires that they are visible from space, and there are concerns that rare breeding habitats will be destroyed.

“We are seeing what is happening in Ukraine,” said Thor Hanson, an independent environmental biologist and expert on the effects of wars on nature. “And we are shocked not only by the danger to people, but also by what is happening to the environment there.”

When Russian forces invaded Ukraine in February, the world’s attention was focused on the country’s heavily fired cities. However, Ukraine, which is in a transitional ecological zone, also has vibrant wetlands and forests, as well as untouched steppes.

Russian troops have already entered more than a third of the country’s protected natural areas or carried out military operations there. According to O. Krasnoluckis: “The ecosystems and species of those areas are in danger”.

Reports from Ukraine and studies of previous armed conflicts suggest that the ecological impact of the conflict could be significant. Wars are destroying habitats, destroying wildlife, polluting the environment and completely transforming ecosystems, with consequences lasting for decades.

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