After the world’s worst nuclear disaster, on April 26, 1986, in Chernobyl, Ukraine, everyone was evacuated. Due to the lack of human disturbances over the years, wildlife has gradually returned to certain areas.
But that has changed since the Russian invasion of Ukraine last February.
The 1986 catastrophe resulted from the Chernobyl nuclear power plant reactor meltdown. This caused two devastating explosions that sent radioactive debris and fuel pouring into the area.
As a result, a 1,000-square-mile area surrounding the site became off-limits to humans and was dubbed the Exclusion Zone. And although the area is still highly radioactive today, in areas with less fallout, wild animal populations have grown and created thriving ecosystems.
Scientists have observed brown bears, wolves, lynx, bison, moose, foxes, and many other wild animals in the area. About 200 species of birds have also returned to the area, including a rare type of vulture.
said Tim Musso, professor of biological sciences at the University of South Carolina Newsweek that although the highly radioactive areas were not a haven for wildlife, the population of wildlife increased in the parts that were not contaminated. He said this was likely due to low fishing in the area.
Last year, the Russian military took control of the nuclear power plant and the surrounding area, from February 24 to March 31, when those forces transferred control of the power plant to the Ukrainian authorities. Until now, scientists cannot be sure of the long-term impact of military action on the ecosystems of the occupied territories. But initial investigations indicated that, at least for the time being, most of the wildlife is no longer there.
“Although our wildlife monitoring studies are still ongoing, they are not as comprehensive as they were in the past due to land mines in the area and fears of a new invasion,” Mousso said. “Our initial assessment is that many animals dispersed far from occupied areas during the invasion.”
He continued, “Our recent observations are not sufficient to determine whether the initial observations of movement away from occupied areas near the power plant were permanent. Only time and continued study will tell us about the long-term consequences of troop movements.” across the region.”
Dispersal of wildlife can be due to many causes, land mines being one of the main causes. The mines would prove to be a major danger to the larger wildlife that roam the land, such as deer and bison, and the effects could last for years.
Before military action took place across the region, Chernobyl was a vital research area for scientists. But these research efforts are now becoming more challenging.
For years, the Exclusion Zone was one of the only places on earth where scientists could gather data for wildlife re-wilding projects and assess the impact of radiation on wildlife. While wildlife can survive in Chernobyl, research continues to show how radiation has harmed animals, birds, and insects.
In September 2022, scientists report that radioactive fallout has led to the rapid evolution of the species. For example, radiation from a power plant accident changed the skin color of the eastern tree frog in Ukraine. Turned from green to black, study in the journal evolutionary applications mentioned.
Military action in Ukraine may prevent scientists from further researching such findings.
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