Scientists observe insect decline in Chernobyl two decades after nuclear meltdown

March 18th, 2009 - 1:36 pm ICT by ANI  

London, March 18 (ANI): New research by scientists has determined that two decades after the explosion at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine, radiation is still causing a reduction in the numbers of insects and spiders.

According to a report by BBC News, researchers working in the exclusion zone surrounding Chernobyl have said that there is a strong signal of decline associated with the contamination.

The team found that bumblebees, butterflies, grasshoppers, dragonflies and spiders were affected.

Professor Timothy Mousseau from the University of South Carolina, US, and Dr Anders Moller from the University of Paris-Sud worked together on the project.

The two researchers previously published findings that low-level radiation in the area has a negative impact on bird populations.

We wanted to expand the range of our coverage to include insects, mammals and plants, said Professor Mousseau. This study is the next in the series, he added.

The team counted insects and spider webs in the unique exclusion zone

For this study, they used what Mousseau described as standard ecological techniques - plotting line transects through selected areas, and counting the numbers of insects and spiders webs they found along that line.

At the same time, the researchers carried hand-held GPS units and dosimeters to monitor radiation levels.

We took transects through contaminated areas in Chernobyl, contaminated land in Belarus, and in areas free of contamination, said Professor Mousseau.

What we found was the same basic pattern throughout these areas - the numbers of organisms declined with increasing contamination, he added.

According to Professor Mousseau, this technique of counting organisms is particularly sensitive because it can account for the changing pattern of contamination across the zone.

We can compare relatively clean areas to the more contaminated ones, he explained.

Professor Mousseau said that his aim is to use the site to discover the true ecological effects of radiation contamination.

The verdict is still out concerning the long-term consequences of mutagenic contaminants in the environment, he said.

Long-term studies of the Chernobyl ecosystem offer a unique opportunity to explore these potential risks that should not be missed, he added. (ANI)

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