Rare Wildlife Find Surprising Home in WW2 Bomb Craters
Life can endure in the unlikeliest of places. For example, a study published in the journal Biological Conservation revealed that World War II bomb craters - the site of destruction - have become a much-needed habitat for various rare water species who have nowhere else to go.
According to a report from New Scientist, human activities such as agricultural land drainage and urbanization have caused the disappearance of many natural inland ponds in Europe. In Hungary, saline ponds or soda pans are quickly decreasing, which is unfortunate for a number of rare endemic species that live in this type of water.
Nature, however, has found a way to save these animals.
Aerial bombings during the second world war has helped create over a hundred ponds near the village of Apaj in central Hungary. This type of habitat is known as a sodic meadow and when water comes, it develops into a salt-water environment.
Csaba Vad, who is from the aquatic ecosystem research centre WasserCluster Lunz in Austria, led the research and stressed the significance of these habitats.
"These 'wartime scars' might be unnatural, but still can be regarded as valuable bioreserves - just like sunken warships or submarines scattered in the ocean that turned into coral reefs giving refugee to many species," Vad explained. "These are very understudied habitats. Even though there are many bomb craters in the old war zones of Europe like England or Belgium."
Vad's study included 54 bomb crater ponds and the team succeeded in identifying 274 species. Most of the animals discovered were salt water creatures, and there were some that are rare and near-vulnerable. The scientists found water beetles and turtles, but also seldom-seen finds such as a rare algae and an endemic shrimp only seen twice in Hungary in the past 25 years.
While there may be greater biodiversity in larger and more complex natural soda lakes, Vad pointed out that the dwindling numbers of natural habitats still make these secondary habitats worth protecting.