From the ravaging of Afghanistan’s forests to the damage inflicted on Ukraine’s protected areas to the decimation of wildlife across the Democratic Republic of Congo, armed conflicts continue to have a devastating impact on biodiversity worldwide. Biodiversity hotspots — the world’s most species-rich yet threatened areas — cover only 2.4% of Earth’s land surface, but overlap strikingly with locations of armed conflicts historically. Between 1950 and 2000, over 90% of major armed conflicts with more than 1,000 casualties occurred in countries containing biodiversity hotspots; more than 80% of these conflicts took place directly within hotspots.
Armed conflict harms biodiversity in numerous ways: degrading forests, land, and natural resources; accelerating species loss; and impeding conservation efforts or research. The weakening or collapse of governance and easy access to weapons can facilitate poaching and the illegal wildlife trade, while civilian coping strategies and the effect of conflict-displaced peoples in need of basic sustenance can lead to the overexploitation of natural resources.