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Lake life around Chernobyl said thriving

disclaimer: image is for illustration purposes only
by Staff Writers
Portsmouth, England (UPI) Apr 26, 2011
Lake wildlife near the Chernobyl nuclear disaster site is thriving, with effects of radiation apparently offset by the absence of humans, U.K. researchers say.

Researchers from the University of Portsmouth in the United Kingdom studied eight lakes contaminated by the 1986 Ukraine nuclear disaster, measuring the abundance and diversity of the invertebrates living there, NewScientist.com reported Tuesday.

Some lakes had almost no measurable levels of radiation, while others had levels 300 times higher than normal, but neither the populations of animals found in the lakes nor their overall diversity were affected by the levels, the researchers said.

In fact, the most contaminated lake, Glubokoye, had the most diverse ecosystem.

"It's thriving," Portsmouth's Jim Smith said.

However, the radiation in the area is still well above safe levels for humans, Smith said, so long-term exposure from the world's worst nuclear power plant disaster could mean an increase in chances of someone developing cancer.

"You still wouldn't want to live there," he said.

Smith says the evacuation of all humans from the area after the disaster has been a boon to the local wildlife, with endangered species such European bison and wild Przewalski's horses making a comeback.

"It demonstrates the impact humans have on ecosystems," Smith said.

earlier related report
Chernobyl's effects on area birds studied
Madrid (UPI) Apr 26, 2011 - Birds with orange or brown plumage may have suffered worse radiation effects than other birds from the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, a European study concluded.

Ismael Galvan -- a researcher at the Laboratory of Ecology, Systematics and Evolution at the University of Paris-Sur in France -- said the study concentrated on bird coloring generated by melanins, pigments that protect from ultraviolet radiation and generate camouflage patterns.

"The impact on the populations depends, at least in part, on the amount of plumage whose coloring is generated by pheomelanin, one of the two main types of melanins, which produces orangish and brownish colors," Galvan told the Spanish science portal Plataforma SINC.

The birds of Chernobyl with the most plumage colored by pheomelanin -- orange and brown birds -- were judged to be the "most negatively" affected by Chernobyl's radioactivity, the researchers said.

The researchers theorize that because the pigment consumes glutathione, an antioxidant most susceptible to being diminished by radiation, the birds' capacity to combat the oxidative stress generated by radiation is lessened.




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TECH SPACE
Primordial fear: why radiation is so scary
Paris (AFP) April 24, 2011
Nuclear radiation is frightening stuff. A quarter century after Chernobyl, and more than 65 years after atomic bombs laid waste to Hiroshima and Nagasaki, fatally sickening thousands not killed outright, even unfounded fear of radioactive contamination can spark panic. The explosions at the Fukushima nuclear plant following the March 11 earthquake and tsunami that devastated a large swat ... read more

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