Chernobyl’s Exclusion Zone ‘Perfect Habitat’ For Studying Effects of Radiation on Living Things

PIC: Antanana (CC)

PIC: Antanana (CC)

The Huffington Post reports on the uncertain outcome for flora and fauna living in Chernoby’s Exclusion Zone.

via 28 Years Later, The Animals Of Chernobyl Have Reclaimed Their Homeland… At A Price.

In 1986, an explosion at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant led to the single worst nuclear accident in history. For nearly three decades, humans have been barred from living within 1,000 square miles surrounding the reactor, allowing plants and animals to reclaim their native home… but all may not be well.

A new report from The New York Times chronicles the work of Dr. Timothy Mousseau, a biologist at the University of South Carolina, and his research into the impacts of chronic radiation on Ukraine’s native flora and fauna.

The scientist has been traveling within Chernobyl’s Exclusion Zone — what he calls “the perfect area for biological studies” in the video above — since 1999, measuring population levels of various species, changes in tree growth and an increased frequency in tumors and physical abnormalities in everything from songbirds to beetles.

“This level of chronic exposure is above what most species will tolerate without showing some signs, either in terms of how long they live or in the number of tumors they have, or genetic mutations and cataracts,” Dr. Mousseau told the Times. “It’s a perfect laboratory setting for us.”


9 Comments on "Chernobyl’s Exclusion Zone ‘Perfect Habitat’ For Studying Effects of Radiation on Living Things"

  1. kowalityjesus | May 7, 2014 at 5:17 pm |

    The Chernobyl Exclusion Zone is also a good inquiry into the hypothetical situation of a nuclear genocide, and whether cancer is preferable to humans from the perspective of nature.

    • Ted Heistman | May 7, 2014 at 5:35 pm |

      I think it effects people the worst, because people have a strong will to live and to preserve the life of our fellow humans. Nature tends to euthanize.

  2. Ted Heistman | May 7, 2014 at 5:34 pm |

    well, the thing is though, if an animal is born all fucked up, in the wild it doesn’t survive. So there is a lot of natural selection going on. You aren’t going to see wolves and and wild horses, etc. walking around with huge tumors and deformities. Even in the cooling ponds there are mostly normal looking fish.Some might be born deformed but they soon die.

    • Rhoid Rager | May 7, 2014 at 8:01 pm |

      I remember laughing when I first heard Popper’s criticism of natural selection as a tautology–things survive because they survive. But the more I think about it, it sounds like a philosophy of desperation jimmied in to replace complete ignorance towards the mechanism of change displayed in the fossil record. While it was intuitively brilliant of Darwin and Wallace to come up with it (independently, no less), when modern genetics reveals that 99% of mutations in nature yield dead-ends, it really leaves one to question why such a relatively inactive mechanism could yield all of the changes we see in flora and fauna in the history of the planet.

      • kowalityjesus | May 7, 2014 at 8:56 pm |

        vast, vast distances of time would be the answer I imagine. That or providence.

        • Rhoid Rager | May 7, 2014 at 10:48 pm |

          vast distances in time do not account for the quick changes visible in the fossil record. As for providence–teleology might be a more familiar term to those who deal with evolution.

          • kowalityjesus | May 8, 2014 at 12:56 am |

            riddle me this, why doesn’t every organism develop a poison so that their flesh can’t be consumed? All their predators would die and it would be a very successful trait, right? Teleology…I’d like to get to the bottom of that!

          • Rhoid Rager | May 8, 2014 at 2:39 am |

            I won’t consider the difficulty of the question in regards to the sheer complexity of nature, but rather, I will approach the question from the same logic it was posed: if it was easy enough for each organism to develop a poison to prevent predation, then it would be easy enough to develop immunities or antidotes to those poisons. Nature, not matter what (rancorous theoretical) biologists say, is to complex for our primate minds to encapsulate in a parsimonious model.

  3. Ted Heistman | May 7, 2014 at 5:53 pm |

    This is the difference between real Scientists and the public imagination:
    We are all wondering about 800 lb wild boars with three heads that glow in the dark running amok through the Ukranian countryside.

    Meanwhile this scientist dude is all

    “See this bug here? It has a goofy pattern on the spots on his back. very troubling.”

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