PRIPYAT, Russia, July 30 (UPI) — Researchers say a wildlife census in the exclusion zone surrounding the site of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in Russia shows animal populations are declining.
Professor Timothy Mousseau from the University of South Carolina and Dr. Anders Moller from the University of Paris-Sud, France, spent three years counting and studying animals in the area, the BBC reported Friday.
From 2006 to 2009, they counted and examined wildlife including insects, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals.
In a report in the journal Ecological Indicators, they say they found evidence that radiation contamination has a “significant impact” on biodiversity.
“The truth is that these radiation contamination effects were so large as to be overwhelming,” Mousseau said.
The research compared the population of species in the exclusion zone with similar types of habitats in areas that were not contaminated.
Birds provided the best “quantitative measure” of these impacts, the researchers said, noting barn swallows were observed with tumors on their feet, necks and around their eyes.
“We think they may be more susceptible, after their long migrations, to additional environmental stress,” Mousseau said.
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