It has been nearly thirty years since the unfortunate nuclear accident, but Chernobyl blooms with wildlife again according to recent findings that have found several species around the area.
- The Chernobyl plant accident, in Ukraine, took place in 1986
- The study suggests that the population of elk, deer and wild boar started soaring between 1987-1996
- The area is considered to be unsafe for humans for the next 20,000 years due to radiation
- The study could provide valuable information about the long-term effects of plant accidents for scientists researching the 2011 nuclear meltdown at Fukushima, in Japan
In 1986, an accident around the Chernobyl plant in Ukraine had caused chaos, panic and required the complete evacuation of the area. The explosions and the fires lifted toxic fumes into the air, and affected several countries nearby. Chernobyl itself was deserted, and the 1,622 square mile area was left without its 116,000 inhabitants, when they left to escape radiation.
Previous studies have suggested that the Chernobyl exclusion zone was nearly as barren of wildlife as it was of humans. It was estimated that their population would see a significant decrease and unfortunately also feel the effects of the plant accident. However, new studies based on long-term census data have discovered that the area is, in fact, thriving with animals.
And, apparently, it’s proving that nature is better off without us than without radiation. As said by Jim Smith, co-author of the paper and environmental expert from the University of Portsmouth, “when humans are removed, nature flourishes”. Now, the area is abundant with moose, deer, wild boars, lynx, and wolves.
According to James Beasley, co-author and professor of wildlife ecology at the University of Georgia Savannah River Ecology Laboratory, this new data shows the resilience of animals when freed from human pressures. Be it hunting, forestry or agriculture, it seemed that human encroachment on their habitat has been much damaging than highly dangerous radiation.
The researchers studied activity within the Polessye State Radioecological Reserve, a 836 square mile area in Belarus that is part of the Chernobyl exclusion zone. They compared the population of wildlife to other nature reserve nearby. And, surprisingly, while the area is not safe for humans, animals seem to have taken over comfortably.
The numbers of several animals, including elk, deer and wild boars, are just as dense as they are in four other uncontaminated regions. The species have seen an increase in their population in the early 1990s, as their numbers were dropping in other areas in the Soviet Union nearby. The decline was likely brought by social-economical changes at the time, which led to poverty in rural areas.
Wolf population, however, is 7 times more dense than it is in adjacent reserves to the Chernobyl exclusion zone.
It seems that the radioactive fallout from the plant accident is far less damaging to the wildlife population than humans. However, while there is no proof of “negative influence of radiation on mammal” life, it cannot be entirely ruled out. Researchers have stated that the possibly damaging effects might still be there.
Image source: theatlantic.com