Shutterstock.com

A slew of new research reveals the deleterious effects of radiation on Fukushima's ecology.

Perhaps you've encountered the well-publicized idea that Chernobyl, the world’s worst nuclear disaster of 1986, has become a kind of 'wildlife haven' as a result of its abandonment by humans.

So what of Fukushima Daiichi, Japan's nuclear collapse of 2011—might we expect a happy menagerie there, too? Not so much, according to a slew of new papers out in the Journal of Heredity. And you may want to rethink Chernobyl-as-Eden, too.

The findings of the new studies tell of significant population decline across many different species of animals and plants, as well as a range of expressions of genetic damage and cell mutation.

An image from an earlier study of the pale grass blue
butterfly shows aberrant wing patterns.  (Nature)

One paper reports that the pale grass blue butterfly, one of Japan's most common butterfly species, has suffered from significant size reduction, slowed growth, high mortality and abnormal wing patterns both within the Fukushima exclusion zone and among lab-raised offspring of parents collected at the site. Which is to say, radiation-caused genetic mutations were passed down.

Researchers also found major declines in populations of birds, butterflies, cicadas, and some small mammals, as well as aberrations and albinism in the feathers of certain birds.

Timothy Mousseau, a prominent biologist and lead author of that population study, has also conducted significant research into radiation's impacts at Chernobyl. He roundly rejects the claim that the area has become an animal haven, arguing that notion was based on anecdotal evidence rather than scientific data. Mousseau's own work demonstrates radiation has had similar effects on Chernobyl's ecology as on Fukushima's.

Further inquiry into all manner of species living at the Chernobyl site could help scientists better predict Fukushima's biological trajectory, he says. "There is an urgent need for greater investment in basic scientific research of the wild animals and plants of Fukushima," Mousseau told the Journal of Heredity

Top image: Sergey Nivens/Shutterstock.com

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. A Soviet map of London, labeled in Russian.
    Maps

    The Soviet Military Secretly Mapped the Entire World

    These intricate, curious maps were supposed to be destroyed. The ones that remain reveal a fascinating portrait of how the U.S.S.R. monitored the world.

  2. A toxic site in Niagara Falls, New York, seen from above.
    Environment

    The Toxic 'Blank Spots' of Niagara Falls

    The region’s “chemical genies” of the early 20th century were heralded as reaching into the future to create a more abundant life for all. Instead, they deprived future generations of their health and well-being.

  3. MapLab

    Introducing MapLab

    A biweekly tour of the ever-expanding cartographic landscape.

  4. Equity

    The Story Behind the Housing Meme That Swept the Internet

    How a popular meme about neoliberal capitalism and fast-casual architecture owned itself.

  5. Cars are seen during early rush hour in Monterrey, Mexico on June 15, 2017.
    Transportation

    The Economics of the Office: Why Do We Still Commute?

    The personal computer was supposed to kill the office and liberate us from hellish commutes to the city. But the average American commute has only increased since then. Could virtual reality finally change that?