A deeply shattered landscape, all along the 700 km frontline

13 French departments, as well as the south-west of Belgium, were literally devastated by the fighting.


The consequences of this upheaval are difficult to imagine. More than 40 million soldiers have suffered in the fighting. 20 million died and 21 million were wounded. The environment also paid a heavy toll.


On the front, soils were literally shorn of any vegetation, polluted by chemical warfare, and many species of animals and plants were severely harmed during the fighting.

The fighting remained concentrated along the 700 km of continuous frontline, reinforced in such a way that none of the armies at war managed a significant advance before 1918. This positional stalemate lasted 4 long years and caused a concentration of men and weapons previously unseen in History. 

The impact on the landscape and on the environment was enormous. Historians estimate that the frontline and defensive works of the contending parties were 12 km wide. Two hundred and sixty five million cubic meters of earth, sand and stones were moved or levelled for the digging of trenches in France only. Based on these figures, environmental historian Martin R. Mulford concluded that around 3760 square miles were affected (equivalent to 6050 square km or one-fifth of the Belgian Territory) by the digging of trenches and adjacent facilities on the western frontline.

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