Science/Tech

How Chernobyl Became A Wildlife Refuge

Back in April 26, 1986, reactor number four of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant exploded due to a misaligned test, marking the biggest ever nuclear accident in our entire history and emitting 400 times more radiation than the atomic bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima back in 1945.

Suffice it to say, Ukraine was never the same again. The accident brought fatalities that vary wildly, and up until today, there’s still no definite number to the physical loss of human lives. Even bigger still was the physiological consequences that it brought, as well as its initial impact on the environment. It killed off trees and wildlife in high numbers.

Following the incident, swift work was made to decontaminate the area. An exclusion zone was made, and more than 350,000 people were evacuated. Human settlement restrictions were also made, and up until today, these are still in place.

Ukraine was changed forever, and Chernobyl was thought to become a barren wasteland. After all, radioactive compounds take centuries to decompose, and no life can survive with that in place.

And so it came as a surprise that just a mere 33 years after the incident, a quick glance at the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone will show you how alive the area is, filled with fauna and wildlife. To be more specific, the area is inhabited by wolves, lynx, Przewalski horses, brown bears, bisons and around 200 bird species, among other types of animals.

Great biodiversity

The studies on the area were done by 30 researchers from the UK, Ireland, France, Belgium, Norway, Spain and Ukraine. Their work proves the great biodiversity currently present in the area. Furthermore, the studies also illustrate how at present, current radiation levels are currently low or even non-visible, seeing as the animals all maintain healthy numbers.

Of course, on an individual level, there are still some observed radiation effects. For example, some birds have genetic alterations, while some insects seem to have a much shorter lifespan. However, these are mostly individual, showing that to some degree, the wildlife may have found ways to adapt to radiation, making themselves more resistant. The absence of humans in the area can also be a big factor.

This means that continuous human pressure can be more dangerous to animals than a nuclear accident when it comes to long-term effects.

Chernobyl’s future

Back in 2016, the government of Ukraine declared the Exclusion Zone of Chernobyl as a radiological and environmental biosphere reserve. Tourism has now also flourished in the area.

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