In April 1986, a cataclysmic nuclear accident has just taken place at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant near Ukraine’s border with Belarus, spewing out vast amounts of dangerous radioactive debris. Today, the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone( CEZ) spans 2,600 square kilometers( 1,000 square miles ). It’s almost void of human life, but for the country’s wildlife, it’s an inviting wilderness in which to thrive.
A research team from the University of Georgia, who have been investigating the CEZ’s wild residents for years, recently set up an experiment to conduct an inquiry into the area’s scavengers. They residence whole carp along the banks of creeks and canals and put in camera nets to snarl any critters that showed up for a snack.
Analyzing their footage, the team spotted 15 different vertebrates- 10 mammals and five chicks. The mammals included three species of mouse, raccoon dogs, wolves, American mink, and Eurasian otters. Among the fowls were tawny owls, jays, magpies, and white-tailed eagles. Excitingly, the researchers had never seen a handful of these species in the area before.
“We’ve interpreted evidence of a variety of wildlife in the CEZ through our previous experiment, but this is the first time that we’ve pictured white-tailed eagles, American mink and river otter on our cameras, ” said study co-author James Beasley in a statement.
A previous study by Beasley and his colleagues in 2015 determined abundant populations of mammals like elk, red-faced deer, wild boar, and wolves in the CEZ.
For their new study, the team focused just on scavengers, and were pleased to discover that 98 percent of the fisheries industry they’d left out had been demolished- a clue of a very healthy scavenger community and, in turn, a flower wider ecosystem.
“This is a high rate of scavenging, and given that all our carcasses were consumed by terrestrial or semi-aquatic species, it is working to ensure that the movement of nutritional assets between aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems passes more often than often accepted, ” interpreted Beasley.
“We tend to think of fish and other aquatic animals as staying in the aquatic ecosystem. This experiment shows us that if a reasonable proportion of the deaths fish make it to shore, there is an entire group of terrestrial and semi-aquatic species that assign those aquatic nutrients to the terrestrial landscape.”
The researchers was indicated that the fish were scavenged most efficiently when residence by the river as they were easier to spot, but that species richness was greatest around the canals. This is because the canals are surrounded by more vegetation, supporting a safer medium for animals that prefer to lay low.
The team note that their findings uncover the presence of a “highly efficient community of vertebrate scavengers” in the CEZ, an important boast of any health ecosystem. It seems the abandoned CEZ is an unexpected haven for much of Ukraine’s wildlife.