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Chernobyl Wildlife Haven Challenged

  • August 24th, 2007
  • Posted by EUEditor

chernobyl-wikipedia.jpgScientists have produced new evidence that adverse ecological effects of the Chernobyl disaster are greater than previously understood – contradicting more optimistic reports that at least wildlife in the region were doing well.

Imogen Brennan weighed up the claims on the aftermath of the 1986 nuclear power station explosion in the Ukraine.

HARD TIMES IN THE DANGER ZONE?

According to a Royal Society journal, work by researchers Anders Mollie from the Pierre et Marie Curie university in France, and Tim Mousseau at the University of South Carolina, has revealed that low levels of radiation within a 30km radius surrounding the disaster point is undeniably affecting wildlife.

The report, in Biology Letters, discovered there has been a decline in the range of species by more than 50%.

“Species richness, abundance and population density of breeding birds decreased with increasing levels of radiation,” the report found.

A GARDEN OF EVEN WITHOUT THE HUMAN FAMILY?

In recent years scientists have claimed that the 30 kilometer exclusion zone set up around the Chernobyl nuclear power plant site has been transformed into a wildlife haven.

These claims were based on the assumption that wildlife was thriving due to the complete lack of human activity in the area.

Robert Baker from Texas Tech University has argued benefits from the lack of a human presence outweigh the risks to the animals, birds and other creatures of low-level radiation.

“It can be said that the world’s worst nuclear power plant disaster is not as destructive to wildlife populations as are normal human activities,” Baker wrote on his website.

These new studies look to be challenging that.

“When you do controlled ecological studies, what we see is a very clear signature of negative effects of contamination on diversity and abundance of organisms,” Professor Mousseau told the BBC.

Reference:

Robertt J. Baker, “Chernobyl Fifteen years Later”, Texas Tech University, http://www.nsrl.ttu.edu/chornobyl/baker.htm (23.8.07)

BBC, “Not a Wildlife Haven”, 14.8.07, www.bbc.com (21.8.07)

Biology Letters, Royal Society Publishing, http://publishing.royalsoc.ac.uk/ (24.8.07)

“Despite Mutations Chernobyl Wildlife is Thriving”, National Geographic News, 26.4.06. http://news.nationalgeographic.com (24.8.07)
Picture: Google – en.wikipedia.org

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