Thursday, 8 October 2015

And God Gave Man Dominion...

Chernobyl after the explosion.
Long-term census data reveal abundant wildlife populations at Chernobyl: Current Biology

According to creationists, their magic invisible friend in the sky created everything on Earth for humans, then put them in charge of it, presumably, because it thought its creation needed managing.

So, on that basis, which should be worse for life on Earth, humans or radioactive contamination? Would nature be better off without humans or with humans running the show?

If the results of a survey of the wildlife around the Chernobyl nuclear reactor is a guide, human beings are far less nature-friendly than even nuclear contamination, and, when left alone, nature can be far more resilient than we might expect.

The Chernobyl nuclear reactor, now in Ukraine, then in the Ukraine SSR and under the direct authority of the Soviet Union, became notorious in 1986 when its reactor ran out of control, destroying the building it was housed in and spraying the surrounding area with very high levels of radioactive isotopes. As a result, the surrounding 4,200 km2 was permanently evacuated, including the city of Pripyat. This has remained an exclusion zone ever since.

Although earlier surveys had reported a reduction in wild life, this latest survey tells a different story.

Following the 1986 Chernobyl accident, 116,000 people were permanently evacuated from the 4,200 km2 Chernobyl exclusion zone [1] . There is continuing scientific and public debate surrounding the fate of wildlife that remained in the abandoned area. Several previous studies of the Chernobyl exclusion zone (e.g. [2,3] ) indicated major radiation effects and pronounced reductions in wildlife populations at dose rates well below those thought [4,5] to cause significant impacts. In contrast, our long-term empirical data showed no evidence of a negative influence of radiation on mammal abundance. Relative abundances of elk, roe deer, red deer and wild boar within the Chernobyl exclusion zone are similar to those in four (uncontaminated) nature reserves in the region and wolf abundance is more than 7 times higher. Additionally, our earlier helicopter survey data show rising trends in elk, roe deer and wild boar abundances from one to ten years post-accident. These results demonstrate for the first time that, regardless of potential radiation effects on individual animals, the Chernobyl exclusion zone supports an abundant mammal community after nearly three decades of chronic radiation exposures.*

*© 2015 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Inc.
Reproduced under terms of Creative Commons Licence (CC BY 4.0).

What the authors found was that, far from being a sterile wasteland, the evacuated area more closely resembles a nature reserve. Populations of elk, roe deer and wild boar were at similar levels to those in nearby nature reserves and the wolf and lynx population was even higher. This increase has been over a period when there has been a decline in the population of these species in former Soviet Union countries. The collapse in the wild boar population in 1994 was due to an infection unrelated to radiation, from which they are now recovering.

The authors go on to say:

Our data on time trends cannot separate likely positive effects of human abandonment of the Chernobyl exclusion zone from a potential negative effect of radiation (though we could detect no such negative effect in our test of Hypothesis 1). Nevertheless, they represent unique evidence of wildlife’s resilience in the face of chronic radiation stress.

So, on this evidence, it seems human disruption and damage to ecosystems is worse than that done by a massive dose of nuclear contamination.

I wonder how those who still believe a magic man in the sky created everything on Earth and then put humans in charge of it all, explain this evidence that, in reality, life on Earth would do better without us.

  1. Environmental Consequences of the Chernobyl Accident and their Remediation: Twenty Years of Experience.
    International Atomic Energy Agency, Vienna; 2006.
  2. Møller, A.P. and Mousseau, T.A.;
    Reduced abundance of insects and spiders linked to radiation at Chernobyl 20 years after the accident.
    Biol. Lett.
    2009; 5: 356–359.
  3. Møller, A.P. and Mousseau, T.A.;
    Assessing effects of radiation on abundance of mammals and predator–prey interactions in Chernobyl using tracks in the snow.
    Ecol. Indic.
    2013; 26: 112–116.
  4. Sources and Effects of Ionizing Radiation; Report to the General Assembly with Scientific Annex.
    United Nations, Vienna; 1996.
  5. Garnier-Laplace, J., Della-Vedova, C., Gilbin, R., Copplestone, D., Hingston, J., and Ciffroy, P.;
    First derivation of predicted-no-effect values for freshwater and terrestrial ecosystems exposed to radioactive substances.
    Environ. Sci. Tech.
    2006; 40: 6498–6505.

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