Wildlife is flourishing in the Chernobyl area where a nuclear reactor accident almost 30 years ago left the land too contaminated for humans, according to a study in the science journal Current Biology, and the number of wolves has exploded.
The study said because there are no humans around the old Chernobyl nuclear reactor site, the wildlife numbers are growing "much higher than they were before the accident," according to the BBC News
"The numbers of animals we see in Chernobyl is similar to the populations in uncontaminated nature reserves," said Jim Smith of the University of Portsmouth, who led the study. "(That) does not mean that radiation is good for wildlife. It's just that the effects of human habitation, including hunting, farming and forestry, are a lot worse."
The Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant explosion in 1986 near the Ukrainian capital of Kiev, which was then part of the old Soviet Union, was one of the worst nuclear disasters in history, driving more than 100,000 people from their homes while the initial blast killed dozens, according to the Washington Post
The 18-mile radius around Chernobyl in the town of Pripyat has been abandoned since the reactor meltdown, leaving mostly crumbling buildings and infrastructure in what resembles a post-apocalyptic setting.
"That wildlife started increasing when humans abandoned the area in 1986 is not earth-shattering news," Tom Hinton, a radioecology expert, told The Washington Post. "What's surprising here was the life was able to increase even in an area that is among the most radioactively contaminated in the world."
The Current Biology
study, which was published Monday, said previous studies had showed a reduction in wildlife activity "at (radiation) dose rates well below those thought to cause significant impact."
"In contrast, our long-term empirical data showed no evidence of a negative influence of radiation on mammal abundance," said the study's summary. "Relative abundances of elk, roe deer, red deer and wild boar within the Chernobyl exclusion zone are similar to those in four (uncontaminated) nature reserves in the region and wolf abundance is more than seven times higher."
"These results demonstrate for the first time that, regardless of potential radiation effects on individual animals, the Chernobyl exclusion zone supports an abundant mammal community after nearly three decades of chronic radiation exposures."
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