Chernobyl Wildlife Sanctuary?

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Image: Timm Suess

Rumours that the Chernobyl nuclear disaster exclusion zone has created a haven for wildlife have been dismissed by scientists.

The area has been sealed off since 1986, when one of the Chernobyl nuclear power station’s reactors exploded in the world’s worst nuclear power station disaster. Traces of radioactive deposits were found in nearly every country in the northern hemisphere.


Image: Piotr Andryszczak

The area was evacuated, and a concrete “sarcophagus” erected around the ruined power station. Gradually, abandoned buildings in the exclusion zone are being enveloped by trees and grasses, and in recent years, there has been speculation that the “Zone of Alienation” had become a thriving ecosystem for rare wildlife, allowing species such as wolves to enjoy a resurgence in numbers, safe from human interference.

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Image: Timm Suess

However, in a new paper, Anders Moller of University Paris Sud, France and Marie Curie, France, and Tim Mousseau from the University of South Carolina, US, conclude that the idea that radiation levels were not affecting animals is incorrect:

“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. However, “species richness, abundance and population density of breeding birds decreased with increasing levels of radiation.”

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