Researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) in Richmond just discovered an amazing way to save thousands of lives taken by explosive land mines every year. According to a recent study by the researchers, hidden land mine explosives not only explode on contact, but they also leak poisonous toxins into the ground, affecting the surrounding plant life. The discovery could lead to a safe way to locate and remove underground land mines, potentially saving thousands of lives in the process.
Photo by U.S. Army
At this year’s annual Ecological Society of America meeting, VCU researchers presented the results of a study on the ecological impact of land mines. The study conducted at an experimental minefield in South Carolina, showed that toxins from underground land mines have a noticeable impact on the surrounding plant life. The study also found that different plants are affected differently by the leaking explosives such as TNT or RDX.
Once researchers dig deep into discovering exactly how different plants are affected by the explosives, they hope to create an “Explosive Specific Index”. The Index would be used to analyze the makeup and health of an area with dense vegetation where land mines would be otherwise hidden from view. Eventually, the VCU researchers hope to develop low-cost methods for detecting plant damage from sensors on airplanes or even cellphones.
Although the number of casualties has decreased over the last few years, land mines continue to kill thousands of people every year, many of the victims children. As a long-lasting, life-threatening remnant of wartime, these land mines can often be cleared manually, but the task is extremely dangerous. The new study by the VCU researchers could be a major breakthrough in terms of saving lives in formerly war-torn areas. Don Young, a VCU plant physiologist and senior investigator on the study explains the impact of the study, “Imagine if you could hold up your phone and look at a plant, and it’s green [for safe] or it’s red [for danger]. Imagine the humanitarian value.”
Lead photo by Clear Path International