Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Camera traps show animals have reclaimed Chernobyl's radioactive wasteland 30 years after the disaster -- and are in good health

Thus showing as completely wrong the Greenie claim that even tiny amounts of radioactivity are harmful.  Chernobyl shows that even quite high levels are not harmful.  Radioactivity has been much demonized for political reasons. Radioactive leaks from nuclear power plants will not do harm unless you are very close to them.

In other evidence of low harm from radioactivity, Tsutomu Yamaguchi was one of a small number of Japanese to live through  both the Hiroshima and Nagasaki nuclear detonations.

He was only only 3 km away from the epicenter on both occasions. He was badly burned by the heat but he recovered from that and lived to 93.  

Exactly 30 years and one week ago, a small town in the former Soviet Union witnessed the worst nuclear disaster the world has seen.

Following a fire in one of its reactors, an explosion at the Chernobyl power plant in the former Soviet Union town of Pripyat leaked radioactive material into the environment and saw the surrounding area evacuated.

But while radiation levels in the region is still considered too high for humans to return, wildlife has moved back into the area and is flourishing.

Studies of the animals and plants in the area around Chernobyl are now providing clues as to what the world would be like should humans suddenly disappear.

The exclusion zone is still in effect around the site of the disaster in what is now Ukraine to protect people from the high levels of radiation which persist in the environment.

But in the absence of human activity, wildlife has flourished ­– making the site a unique habitat for biologists to study.

Scientists are monitoring the health of plants and animals in the exclusion area to see how they react to chronic radiation exposure.

Camera traps set up by researchers have captured a stunning array of local wildlife, including wolves, lynx, mouse, boars, deer, horses, and many others, as they wander through the area.

It shows that three decades on from the disaster, the area is far from being a wasteland. Instead life is thriving there.

Using the motion-activated traps to get snapshots of wildlife at a number of sites throughout the exclusion zone, researchers at the University of Georgia have recorded 14 species of mammal.

In a study published this week in the journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, the Georgia group reports it found no evidence to suggest that the areas with the highest levels of radiation were keeping their numbers down, and that populations inside the exclusion zone are doing well.

Sarah Webster, a graduate student working on the project and first author of the study, told UGA Today: 'Carnivores are often in higher trophic levels of ecosystem food webs, so they are susceptible to bioaccumulation of contaminants.'

'Few studies in Chernobyl have investigated effects of contamination level on populations of species in high trophic levels.'

The exclusion zone, which covers a substantial area in Ukraine and some of bordering Belarus, will remain in effect for generations to come, until radiation levels fall to safe enough levels.

The region is called a 'dead zone' due to the extensive radiation which persists. However, the proliferation of wildlife in the area contradicts this and many argue that the region should be given over to the animals which have become established in the area - creating a radioactive protected wildlife reserve.

It would be expected that carnivores would receive extensive radioactive exposure, both directly from the environment and water sources as well as ingesting it through eating contaminated animals.

In the long-term, this accumulation of radioactive material would be expected to be harmful to the top predators and would restrict their number, but findings from the latest study don't seem to support this.

'We didn't find any evidence to support the idea that populations are suppressed in highly contaminated areas,' said Dr James Beasley, a biologist at Georgia and senior author of the paper.

'What we did find was these animals were more likely to be found in areas of preferred habitat that have the things they need – food and water.'

Other research groups working within the area, including the TREE consortium, have found that endangered Przewalski's horses – released into the exclusion zone in the 1990s – are breeding successfully.

In addition, the camera studies have identified a number of protected bird species, including golden eagles and white tailed eagles.


Posted by John J. Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.).

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