:: 30 Jahre Tschernobyl: Auswirkungen auf den Wildtierbestand – Interview mit Umweltwissenschafter Jim Smith

26/04/2016 von / 0 Kommentare

Am 26. April sind es 30 Jahre seit der Katastrophe im Kernkraftwerk des ukrainischen Tschernobyl. Im Oktober 2015 erschien im Current Biology ein Artikel, bei dem es um den Wildtierbestand rund um die 30 Kilometer große Sperrzone des Atomkraftwerkes ging (Long-term census data reveal abundant wildlife populations at Chernobyl, Current Biology, Volume 25, Issue 19, 2015).

Die Wissenschaftler/-innen fanden Erstaunliches: Der Wildtierbestand in der verstrahlten Zone ist ähnlich hoch, wie in dortigen unverstrahlten Schutzgebieten. Nicht nur Rehe, Elche,  Wildschweine und Hirsche scheinen diese menschenleere Gegend als Lebensraum zu nutzen, auch Wölfe sollen dort bereits recht häufig sein. Ist dies nun ein Hoffnungsschimmer oder eine tragische Fußnote unseres Ökosystems, dass ein verstrahltes Gebiet Wildtieren als Refugium dient?

Abb.: Jim Smith

Abb. 1: Jim Smith. Quelle: Jim Smith

Ich habe ein kleines Interview mit einem der Wissenschaftler der oben erwähnten Studie geführt: Professor Jim Smith unterrichtet und forscht derzeit am Department für Geo- und Umweltwissenschaften an der Universität Portsmouth (UK). Er beschäftigt sich unter anderem mit den Auswirkungen von ionisierenden Strahlungen auf der Ebene des einzelnen Organismus, aber auch auf das Ökosystem als Ganzes.

How did it happen that you began your research about Chernobyl and its consequences on nature?

I’m a physicist and in 1990 started a PhD studying radioactivity from Chernobyl which was deposited in lakes in the English Lake District. I’ve studied radioactivity and worked at Chernobyl ever since. In 2002 I started a project studying the Chernobyl Cooling Pond and myself and colleagues began work on radiation effects on fish and aquatic insects living there.

For me, it is very hard to understand how research at a place, like the Chernobyl exclusion zone, is possible. What are the main problems for a scientist concerning the collection of data from there?

The radiation risk of working at Chernobyl is very small – we usually go on two week field trips and get a dose of around 0.1-0.2 millisieverts – that is small compared to the average radiation dose of 2 millisieverts people in the UK get every year from natural radiation in the environment. The main problem is organising access to the zone and field as well as the logistical support. For that we rely on our friends and collaborators in Ukraine and Belarus.

Abb.: Wildschwein (Sus scrofa), Schwarzstorch (Ciconia nigra), Elch (Alces alces). Quelle: Valeriy Yurko

Abb. 2: Wildschwein (Sus scrofa), Schwarzstorch (Ciconia nigra), Elch (Alces alces). Quelle: Valeriy Yurko

The data in your paper show that around Chernobyl there is probably now more wildlife than before the accident. Do you think lobbyists for nuclear power will use this as an argument to downplay the risks of nuclear power plants?

Maybe they will, though I don’t think anyone would argue that a nuclear accident is a good thing! But what it does imply, I think, is that very small „routine“ releases of radioactivity from nuclear power stations and planned nuclear waste sites don’t have a significant impact on ecosystems.

Abb.: Luchs (Lynx lynx), Wolf (Canis lupus). Quelle: Valeriy Lukashevitch, Valeriy Yurko

Abb. 3: Luchs (Lynx lynx), Wolf (Canis lupus). Quelle: Valeriy Lukashevitch, Valeriy Yurko

Do you plan to intensify the research at Chernobyl exclusion zone? For example to collect data on to count other species or get more information concerning the reproductive success or lifespan of the animals?

Yes, within the UK Natural Environment Research Council „Radioactivity and the Environment“ programme, myself and a colleague, Dr Adelaide Lerebours, are studying reproductive and genetic effects of radiation on fish. Whilst we haven’t seen an effect of radiation on animal populations at Chernobyl (so far we have studied mammals and aquatic invertebrates), we may see more subtle effects on individual animals.

Abb.: v.l.n.r.: Blaukehlchen (Luscinia svecica), Eisvogel (Alcedo atthis), Schelladler (Clanga clanga). Quelle: Valeriy Yurko

Abb. 4: v.l.n.r.: Blaukehlchen (Luscinia svecica), Eisvogel (Alcedo atthis), Schelladler (Clanga clanga). Quelle: Valeriy Yurko

Worldwide the anthropogenic impact on wild animals and their habitat is increasing. Do you think your work could be seen as a little ray of hope that the natural environment will recover one day?

Yes, perhaps. Rightly, biologists and ecologists emphasise the threats to ecosystems and their vulnerability. But it is also good to remember that they can also be resilient. I hope that they can adapt to and recover from the terrible damage we humans are doing. I think the lesson from Chernobyl is that ecosystems can survive if we give them the habitat space to do so.

Bison_Pferd_Tatyana Deryabina

Abb. 5: Przewalski-Pferde (Equus ferus przewalskii), Wisent (Bison bonasus). Quelle: Tatyana Deryabina

Thank you very much for giving us an insight into this interesting topic!

Hütte_Fluss_Yurko

Abb. 6: Verlassenes Haus, Prypjat – größter Nebenfluss des Dnepr. Quelle: Valeriy Yurko


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