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War's ecological effects laid bare in 'A Window on Eternity'

A Biologist’s Walk through Gorongosa National Park, by Edward O. Wilson

12:00pm, April 20, 2014

Starting in the late 1970s, Mozambique spent more than a decade embroiled in a brutal civil war that left millions dead or displaced. The effects of the human conflict echoed through the natural world. Soldiers encamped in Mozambique’s Gorongosa National Park, an area rich in flora and fauna, hunted elephants, zebras, Cape buffalo and other animals for food. Populations of the big mammals dwindled to almost nothing.

In his latest book, entomologist E.O. Wilson chronicles both the shifting ecology of Gorongosa after the war and how researchers are trying to repair the damage. Without key species, the park began to change. Trees that previously had been bulldozed by elephants flourished. With no grazers to prune them back, low-growing plants provided abundant timber for wildfires. Dung- and carrion-eating insects died off.

Wilson, who

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