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Birds near Chernobyl Are Adapting to Exposure to Radiation


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A new paper in the journal of Functional Ecology argues that, as surprising as this might sound, birds living close to Chernobyl are adapting to long-term exposure to radiation. What's more, scientists claim that there is evidence that these birds are in fact benefiting from radiation exposure.

For those unaware, the Chernobyl nuclear plant in Ukraine was the scene of a major disaster back in 1986, on April 26. At that time, the nuclear facility was hit by both an explosion and a fire, and ended up releasing whopping amounts of radioactive particles into the atmosphere.

Over 30 people lost their lives in this disaster, and scientists are still trying to figure out how the release of radioactive materials from the Chernobyl nuclear plant has affected both human health and the natural world.

In the paper in the British Ecological Society's journal Functional Ecology, specialists detail that, according to their investigations into the matter at hand, birds in the exclusion zone around Chernobyl are not responding to radiation exposure as expected of them. On the contrary, they are pretty much defying all expectations.

“Previous studies of wildlife at Chernobyl showed that chronic radiation exposure depleted antioxidants and increased oxidative damage. We found the opposite – that antioxidant levels increased and oxidative stress decreased with increasing background radiation,” study lead author Dr. Ismael Galván said in a statement.

By the looks of it, previous experiments carried out in laboratories have shown that both humans and animals have the ability to adapt to radiation, and that exposing organisms to low doses of radiation on several occasions makes it easier for them to handle larger, subsequent doses, Alpha Galileo informs.

However, such adaptation to radiation exposure was never before documented outside laboratory conditions until researchers took the time to assess the overall health condition of these birds in the exclusion zone around Chernobyl.

“The findings are important because they tell us more about the different species' ability to adapt to environmental challenges such as Chernobyl and Fukushima,” Dr. Ismael Galván wished to stress in a recent interview with the press.

As part of this research project, scientists captured and studied as many as 152 birds belonging to 16 different species, i.e. red-backed shrike, great tit, barn swallow, wood warbler, blackcap, whitethroat, barred warbler, tree pipit, chaffinch, hawfinch, mistle thrush, song thrush, blackbird, black redstart, robin, and thrush nightingale. The birds were caught in an area where levels of radiation ranged from 0.02 to 92.90 micro Sieverts per hour.
Edited by sujith
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