The land mines have been good for the birds. In 1982, the Falkland Islands—a wind-lashed, nearly treeless archipelago 300 miles off the coast of South America—were the center of a brief war between Argentina and Great Britain. The British quickly reclaimed the territory, which had been a British colony since the early 19th century, but as the Argentine military retreated from the islands, it scattered some 20,000 land mines on the beaches behind them. Rather than clear the mines, the British left the beaches alone. In the process, they inadvertently created a nature preserve. Local penguins—the southern rockhopper, the macaroni, the jackass—are too light to trigger the mines, and they have thrived on the deserted beaches.
The Falklands isn't the only place where human conflict has benefitted biodiversity. On the Korean Peninsula, the 400-square-mile demilitarized zone has been largely devoid of humans for more than half a century, and today it's a haven for species like the Asiatic black bear, the rare Amur goral (a kind of goat), deer, cranes (in huge numbers), and spotted seals. On the Mediterranean island of Cyprus, another demilitarized zone—110 miles separating warring Greek and Turkish factions—also functions as a refuge for endemic species like the Cyprus bee orchid, the Cyprus tulip, and the mouflon, a wild sheep native to the island.