I was never comfortable with the claim that nuclear radiation polluted areas spring back as wildlife sanctuaries. The claim was made about Rocky Flats near Boulder, Colorado and has been thrown around for a long time about Chernobyl.
The claim is that nature has sprung back in the places that used to be dominated by humans who screwed it all up with a nuke spill or blast. It was kind of like “Our bad for the nuke thing, but look at how much the animals love it!.”
Whenever I heard that I would think to myself “wouldn’t the radiation mess up the birds and the bees as well?”. My second thought is the hellacious woodland creatures that live in a place like Chernobyl. If you’ve seen the South Park episode Woodland Critters (#814), you know what I’m talking about- but with extra horns and maybe a few fused species thrown in the mix. Forget jackalopes, how about a squirreldeer or a hummingbeaver?
Well a recent study has shown that my line of thinking was right. Of course f***ed up places like Chernobyl haven’t become a wildlife garden of eden…
The idea that the exclusion zone around the Chernobyl nuclear power plant has created a wildlife haven is not scientifically justified, a study says.
Recent studies said rare species had thrived despite raised radiation levels as a result of no human activity.
But scientists who assessed the 1986 disaster’s impact on birds said the ecological effects were “considerably greater than previously assumed”.
The findings appear in the Royal Society’s journal, Biology Letters.
In April 1986, reactor number four at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant exploded.
After the accident, traces of radioactive deposits were found in nearly every country in the northern hemisphere.
The paper’s authors, Anders Moller of University Pierre and Marie Curie, France, and Tim Mousseau from the University of South Carolina, US, said their research did not support the idea that low-level radiation was not affecting animals.
“Recent conclusions from the UN Chernobyl Forum and reports in the popular media concerning the effects of radiation from Chernobyl has left the impression that the exclusion zone is a thriving ecosystem, filled with an increasing number of rare species,” they wrote.
Instead, they added: “Species richness, abundance and population density of breeding birds decreased with increasing levels of radiation.”
The study, which recorded 1,570 birds from 57 species, found that the number of birds in the most contaminated areas declined by 66% compared with sites that had normal background radiation levels.
It also reported a decline of more than 50% in the range of species as radiation levels increase.