An unlikely combination of defence and biodiversity led a Bristol University team to scoop a £330,000 award from the Arts and Humanities Research Council.
The project, "Militarised Landscapes in the 20th Century: Britain, France and the USA", was one of 11 to win an award.
The bid was led by Peter Coates, Tim Cole and Chris Pearson from the department of historical studies. "I think the surprise element helped us win," said Dr Coates, the lead researcher.
"Most people think of military activity in terms of destruction: burning oil wells and tanks crushing wild flowers."
The research will explore the role of military land as a reservoir of biodiversity. "Animals and plants prefer occasional shelling in land protected by the military to more sustained assaults of mass recreation and intensive agriculture," he explained.
The project will comprise several studies. Dr Coates will examine the conversion of military sites in Colorado into wildlife refuges. "I'm a specialist in American history and will look at some of the most heavily contaminated places in the US, where ironically nature has found a way to thrive," he said.
Dr Cole will scrutinise the effects of militarisation on human communities using Tyneham, Dorset, as a case study, while Dr Pearson, a postdoctoral researcher, will explore the militarised landscapes of post-1945 France.
As well as publishing research papers, the team plans to make a documentary with Icon Films, an independent film company.
The AHRC considered a total of 124 grant applications under its five-year £5.5 million transdisciplinary landscape and environment research programme.