Wednesday, 20 April 2016

30 years after Chernobyl, camera study reveals wildlife abundance in Chernobyl Exclusion Zone

Date:April 18, 2016
Source:University of Georgia

Summary: While humans are now scarce in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, continued studies--including a just-published camera study--validate findings that wildlife populations are abundant at the site. The camera study is the first remote-camera scent-station survey conducted within the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, or CEZ.
Thirty years ago, the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Pripyat, Ukraine, became the site of the world's largest nuclear accident. While humans are now scarce in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, continued studies--including a just-published camera study conducted by researchers from the University of Georgia's Savannah River Ecology Laboratory--validate findings that wildlife populations are abundant at the site.

The camera study, published in the journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment and led by UGA's James Beasley, is the first remote-camera scent-station survey conducted within the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, or CEZ. The study's results document species prevalent in the zone and support earlier findings that animal distribution is not influenced by radiation levels.

The restricted CEZ encompasses the bordering lands of Ukraine and Belarus impacted by radiation fallout from the accident, which occurred April 26, 1986.

Within the southern portion of Belarus is the Polessye, or Polesie State Radiation Ecological Reserve, with over 834 square miles of diverse landscape including forests and deserted developed lands. The levels of radiation vary significantly across this landscape.

The previous study, published in fall 2015, determined populations were thriving in the CEZ by counting animal tracks. Beasley and his research team used a more contemporary research method--remote camera stations--to substantiate previous findings.

"The earlier study shed light on the status of wildlife populations in the CEZ, but we still needed to back that up," said Beasley, an assistant professor with UGA's Savannah River Ecology Laboratory and the Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources and the senior author on the study. "For this study we deployed cameras in a systematic way across the entire Belarus section of the CEZ and captured photographic evidence--strong evidence--because these are pictures that everyone can see."

The study was conducted over a five-week period at 94 sites using 30 cameras. A remote camera was set up on a tree or tree-like structure for seven days at each location. Each station was equipped with a fatty acid scent to attract the animals.

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