Tim Mousseau et al: We re-analyzed field data concerning potential effects of ionizing radiation on the abundance of mammals collected in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone (CEZ) to interpret these findings from current knowledge of radiological dose–response relationships, here mammal response in terms of abundance. In line with recent work at Fukushima, and exploiting a census conducted in February 2009 in the CEZ, we reconstructed the radiological dose for 12 species of mammals observed at 161 sites. We used this new information rather than the measured ambient dose rate (from 0.0146 to 225 µGy h−1) to statistically analyze the variation in abundance for all observed species as established from tracks in the snow in previous field studies. All available knowledge related to relevant confounding factors was considered in this re-analysis. This more realistic approach led us to establish a correlation between changes in mammal abundance with both the time elapsed since the last snowfall and the dose rate to which they were exposed. This relationship was also observed when distinguishing prey from predators. The dose rates resulting from our re-analysis are in agreement with exposure levels reported in the literature as likely to induce physiological disorders in mammals that could explain the decrease in their abundance in the CEZ. Our results contribute to informing the Weight of Evidence approach to demonstrate effects on wildlife resulting from its field exposure to ionizing radiation.
Nature 21st Aug 2020 read more »