Thursday, 24 January 2013

Europe’s unlikeliest wildlife sanctuary

Europe’s unlikeliest wildlife sanctuary: ..."Chernobyl’s abundant and surprisingly normal-looking wildlife has shaken up how biologists think about the environmental effects of radioactivity. The idea that the world’s biggest radioactive wasteland could become Europe’s largest wildlife sanctuary is completely counterintuitive for anyone raised on nuclear dystopias.
The news isn’t good for all animals. Many species that like human company—swallows, white storks, pigeons—mostly left the region along with the people. Also, small creatures seem to be more vulnerable to the effects of radiation than large ones. That may be why Chernobyl rodents studied in the 1990s had shorter life spans and smaller litters than their counterparts outside the zone. Stag beetles had uneven horns. But it didn’t affect their population numbers.
And because the health of wild animal species is usually judged by their numbers rather than the conditions of individuals, Chernobyl wildlife is considered healthy. According to all the population counts performed by Ukraine and Belarus over the past 27 years, there is enormous animal diversity and abundance. The prevailing scientific view of the exclusion zone has become that it is an unintentional wildlife sanctuary. This conclusion rests on the premise that radiation is less harmful to wildlife populations than we are."

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