Subscribe to our free daily newsletters
. Earth Science News .




Subscribe to our free daily newsletters



DISASTER MANAGEMENT
Chernobyl zone turns into testbed for Nature's rebound
By Olga SHYLENKO
Chernobyl, Ukraine (AFP) April 19, 2016


What happens when the site of the world's worst nuclear accident is left all but abandoned for nearly 30 years?

In the case of Chernobyl, it becomes a unique chance to see how wildlife recovers in what is a giant nature reserve, bereft of humans but tainted by radiation.

"When the people left, nature returned," Denys Vyshnevskiy, a biologist in Chernobyl's so-called exclusion zone, told AFP during a visit, while nearby a herd of wild horses nosed around for food.

Some may wonder how the northern edge of the former Soviet nation, where a part of the station exploded on April 26, 1986, spewing toxic clouds that reached from Sweden to Greece, could host any life forms at all.

About 30 courageous and atrociously under-protected rescuers died in the weeks it took to control the fourth reactor's meltdown and a 2,800-square-kilometre-wide (1,100-square-mile-wide) exclusion zone was set up.

The World Health Organization estimated in 2005 that 4,000 people could eventually die from radiation-related illnesses, a figure that Greenpeace slammed as a gross underestimate.

The region and its 300 or so mostly elderly inhabitants remains far from safe, with radiation readings within 10 kilometres of the plant reaching 1,700 nanosieverts per hour -- 10 to 35 times the normal background levels observed in the United States.

Today's animals in the exclusion may have shorter lifespans and produce fewer offspring, but their numbers and varieties are growing at rates unseen since long before the Soviet Union's 1991 collapse, says Vyshnevskiy.

"Radiation is always here and it has its negative impact," said Vyshnevskiy.

"But it is not as significant as the absence of human intervention."

- Environmental renaissance? -

About 130,000 people were rushed from the region in the disaster's wake, with signs of former existence like children's sandpits and swings still standing and collecting snow in the winter, as if frozen in time.

With the quick death of the local Red Forest -- 10 square kilometres of pines that wilted from the radiation that permeated the ground -- various birds, rodents and insects were lost.

Over time, the forest was cut down and a new, healthy one sprung up in its place.

The exclusion zone was placed under military surveillance to keep away the homesick for their own safety, and while a few hundred pension-aged people slipped back in over the decades, curious things slowly began to emerge in nature.

On the one hand, species dependent on human crops and waste products vanished: white storks, sparrows and pigeons fell silent and no longer filled the skies.

Yet on the other, indigenous species that flourished in the lush flora long before the catastrophe, reappeared.

These include elks, wolves, bears, lynxes, white-tailed eagles and many others.

One of the more brazen experiments came in 1990, when a handful of endangered Dzungarian horses were brought in to see if they would take root. They did so with relish, and about a hundred of them now graze the untended fields.

For Vyshnevskiy, the rebound is an "environmental renaissance".

Other scientists, though, are more cautious.

Tim Mousseau, a professor of biological sciences at the University of South Carolina at Columbia, heads a team that has been conducting long-term research into biodiversity at Chernobyl -- a mission that they are also carrying out in the zone around Fukushima in Japan.

In a phone interview with AFP, Mousseau said that the range of species, the number of animals and their survivability in Chernobyl is less than what would be expected in a non-contaminated area -- especially in "hotspots" where radiation is high.

Butterflies and birds in particular seem to have been affected most, apparently because of susceptibility on a key chromosome, he said.

"When you put a fence around an area, it's clear that some animals will have an opportunity to expand, but because they are visible, it doesn't mean that they have increased as much as they should have, or that you have the biodiversity that you would normally have," Mousseau said.

He added in an email: "Overall, in almost all cases, there is a clear signal of the negative effects of radiation on wild populations. Even the cuckoo's call is affected."

- Disaster's sole positive outcome -

Maryna Shkvyrya, a researcher at the Schmalhausen Institute of Zoology, Ukraine's oldest in the field, also urges prudence to those tempted to idealise the exclusion zone as a nature reserve.

The zone is "unique... but not exactly a paradise for the animals nor an oasis", Shkvyrya said.

"There are lots of people working on the power plant. There are tourists, stalkers and poachers."

Vyshnevskiy says that the biodiversity benefits will rise with time. When the woods sprawl even wider across the empty fields, forest fauna and flora will multiply, he predicts.

"There is a huge contrast between Chernobyl just before the catastrophe and Chernobyl 30 years after," said Vyshnevskiy.

"These animals are probably the only positive outcome of the terrible catastrophe we had".


Thanks for being here;
We need your help. The SpaceDaily news network continues to grow but revenues have never been harder to maintain.

With the rise of Ad Blockers, and Facebook - our traditional revenue sources via quality network advertising continues to decline. And unlike so many other news sites, we don't have a paywall - with those annoying usernames and passwords.

Our news coverage takes time and effort to publish 365 days a year.

If you find our news sites informative and useful then please consider becoming a regular supporter or for now make a one off contribution.

SpaceDaily Contributor
$5 Billed Once


credit card or paypal
SpaceDaily Monthly Supporter
$5 Billed Monthly


paypal only

.


Related Links
Bringing Order To A World Of Disasters
A world of storm and tempest
When the Earth Quakes






Comment on this article via your Facebook, Yahoo, AOL, Hotmail login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks
del.icio.usdel.icio.us DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle

Previous Report
DISASTER MANAGEMENT
Defying radiation, elderly residents cling on in Chernobyl
Chernobyl, Ukraine (AFP) April 18, 2016
Defying radioactive contamination and a government evacuation order, Yevgeny Markevich returned to his beloved Chernobyl shortly after it suffered the world's worst nuclear accident 30 years ago this week. The sturdy 78-year-old former teacher is among 158 people still living in the 30 kilometre (19 mile) exclusion zone around the Ukrainian nuclear power plant where reactor number four explo ... read more


DISASTER MANAGEMENT
Defying radiation, elderly residents cling on in Chernobyl

Ukraine to mark 30 years since Chernobyl shook the world

Japan battles to care for 100,000 evacuees after quake

Social networks offer comfort, confusion in Japan quake

DISASTER MANAGEMENT
Topology explains queer electrical current boost in non-magnetic metal

Elusive state of superconducting matter discovered after 50 years

Clearing the way for real-world applications of superhydrophobic surfaces

Airbus wins contract for solid state recorder on NASA-ISRO SAR Mission

DISASTER MANAGEMENT
Kayakers protest Balkans 'dam tsunami' in lake paddle

Gripped by drought, Ethiopia drills for water

Chemical weathering controls erosion rates in rivers

Storms leave three million without water in Chile capital

DISASTER MANAGEMENT
Ice streams can be slowed down by gas hydrates

Satellite images reveal dramatic tropical glacier retreat

Heat wave triggers Greenland's ice melting season two months early

Twentieth century warming allowed moose to colonize the Alaskan tundra

DISASTER MANAGEMENT
China wields increasing power in world wine market: study

Spreading seeds by human migration

Rising CO2 levels reduce protein in crucial pollen source for bees

Growth of GM crops slows for first time in 20 years

DISASTER MANAGEMENT
Japanese map tracks the last moments of the victims of 2011 tsunami

Bubbles lead to disaster

Mexico volcano spits ash on towns

Japan plants shut down after quake, fuels economic fears

DISASTER MANAGEMENT
South Sudan rebel chief's return delayed

Ivory trucks arrive in Kenyan capital for mass burning

Two Somalia drone strikes kill about 12 militants: US

Taiwan says Kenya police broke down jail walls to forcibly deport Taiwanese

DISASTER MANAGEMENT
Are humans the new supercomputer

Brain observed filing memories during sleep

Study: Some words sound farther away than others

Study: Electrical brain stimulation enhances creativity




Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily :: SpaceWar :: TerraDaily :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News






The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2017 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. All articles labeled "by Staff Writers" include reports supplied to Space Media Network by industry news wires, PR agencies, corporate press officers and the like. Such articles are individually curated and edited by Space Media Network staff on the basis of the report's information value to our industry and professional readership. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement