With Germany shelving the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline from Russia following its invasion of Ukraine, it has become clear that finite natural resources are points of tension across global powers. However, the end of conflict does not necessarily translate to the end of extraction. A recent study shows that deforestation in Colombia accelerated following a peace deal made in 2003.
Ongoing armed conflicts with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) combined with coca farming and cattle ranching have led to multiple violent disputes that continue into today, despite FARC formally disbanding in 2017. The researchers used deforestation data between 2001 and 2018 to explore how deforestation fluctuated in relation to different land use interests, ongoing conflicts, and the displacement of people.
“There are various drivers at the local scale that have different effects, so it’s very important to look locally and to see the history and actors,” says lead author Raphael Ganzenmüller.
Indeed, there was overall more deforestation during peacetime on a national scale. But, the local factors contributing to this overarching trend varied by region. In the Amazon rainforest, cattle farming was the leading driver of forest loss, but coca cultivation was the main source in the Andes mountains.
“What we can conclude is that there’s not one perfect solution that you can generalize for the whole of Colombia,” says co-author Augusto Castro-Nunez, “We have an overall idea of the dynamics at play and next we need to break it down and confirm that this is really happening on the ground by surveying farmers and understanding local motivations.”
This is not the only example where war provided indirect benefits to biodiversity: the cessation of commercial fishing during World War II helped cod, haddock and other fisheries temporarily recover from intense fishing pressure.