How radiation is affecting the state of flora and fauna of the Exclusion Zone today
Today, the Exclusion Zone has become a true research ground for scientists from all over the world. Everyone is interested in how radiation has affected the state of flora and fauna in this territory and in what state the ecosystem of Ukrainian Polissia is now.
«A difficult period for animals was in the first 2-3 months after the accident. Then, in the air, there was the biggest amount of radionuclides with a short half-life, for example, Iodine-131. The shorter the period of the decay of an element, the more aggressive its radiation is», – Denys Vyshnevskyi, Head of the ecology of flora and fauna of the Chornobyl Radiation and Ecological Biosphere Reserve, said in the air of radio «Hayat».
Currently, the radiation state in the Exclusion Zone is determined mainly by radioactive Cesium-137 and Strontium-90, whose half-life is about 30 years, and their radiation is less aggressive than that of Iodine-131, whose half-life is 8.5 days. The nature of the once abandoned lands is self-evolving: there is an active reproduction of both ordinary and rare species of animals.
«According to various estimates, today about 24 species of vertebrate animals that are listed in the Red Data Book of Ukraine exist in the Exclusion Zone. These, for example, are lynx, bear (the largest predator), badger, Przewalski's horse (an animal that did not live here earlier), according to various estimates of specialists, ranges from 70 to 130 individuals, which is quite interesting because it is the last wild horse that is on the planet Earth. The number and variety of trees after the accident at the Chornobyl Nuclear Power Plant did not decrease, but on the contrary increased. Trees and vegetation occupy former agricultural lands and this is a positive phenomenon», – Denys Vyshnevskyi noted.
Such a revival of nature is quite interesting to scientists since the 90-ies of the last century. Wild animals are used by scientists as a model for studying the impact of radioactive radiation on fauna state.
Scientists from the Georgetown University of the United States, together with the workers of the Polissia State Radiation and Ecological Reserve and experts from the State Specialized Enterprise «Ecocentre», investigated wolves with special collars, which allowed measuring the accumulated dose of gamma rays and hourly tracing of animal movements.
«At the moment, a joint Ukrainian-Japanese project «SATREPS» is being implemented in the Exclusion Zone, scientists from the University of Portsmouth (UK), who recently collaborated with specialists from the University of Warsaw (Poland) to conduct an international expedition to study the Przewalski’s horses' population, are working», – Denys Vyshnevskyi said.
According to experts, in spite of the dangerous neighborhood with a nuclear reactor, nature in Chornobyl is thriving.
According to Denys Vyshnevskyi, the Exclusion Zone is an area where there will be no people in the future, but this is not a territory lost for the state. Exclusion Zone is a wildlife space, and its research helps to find new ways to overcome the consequences of an accident.