Many imagine Chernobyl to be a nuclear wasteland, where wildlife is struggling to survive or is severely mutated. But this is not the case. Much of the exclusion zone is relatively uncontaminated (with radiation levels close to that of unexposed places) and wildlife is thriving in the absence of humans – with some species having reappeared. However, some parts of the CEZ have radiation levels high enough to affect wildlife. These areas are predominantly along what is called the North and West Trace, where the wind blew the contamination after the accident. Located on the West Trace, the Red Forest is a 10km² area surrounding Chernobyl and remains the most contaminated area in the CEZ. Scientists are divided as to whether there are effects on wildlife living in these contaminated areas, with some studies reporting Chernobyl as a refuge for wildlife or, conversely, with serious consequences for the wildlife living there. Such effects on wildlife following acute radiation exposure are reasonably well understood. But the effects of long-term exposure of lower levels of radiation, as seen currently within the CEZ are still being debated. When it comes to insects, our research provides insight into the effects of Chernobyl-level radiation dose rates on bumblebees by estimating the impact and determining the shape of the dose-response relationship.
The Conversation 4th Nov 2020 read more »