University Of Tasmania

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

journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-17, 17:10 authored by Kiernan, K
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.


Publication title

Land Degradation and Development










School of Geography, Planning and Spatial Sciences


John Wiley & Sons Ltd

Place of publication

The Atrium, Southern Gate, Chichester, England, W Sussex, Po19 8Sq

Rights statement

Copyright 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Repository Status

  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

Other environmental management not elsewhere classified