Bird Populations in Fukushima Plummet After Nuclear Disaster
Bird populations may have declined to a large extent in Japan's Fukushima province due to the disaster that occurred there in 2011. Scientists have taken a closer look at bird populations and have found that since the March 11 earthquake, which caused the nuclear catastrophe, bird populations have plummeted.
"We were working with a relatively small range of background exposures in this study because we weren't able to get into the 'hottest' areas that first summer after the disaster, and we were only able to get to some 'meium-hot' areas the following summer," said Tim Mousseau, one of the researchers, in a news release. "So we had relatively little statistical power to detect those kinds of relationships, especially when you combine that with the fact that there are so few barn swallows left. We know that there were hundreds in a given area before the disaster, and just a couple of years later we're only able to find a few dozen left. The declines have been really dramatic."
The scientists also analyzed how the response of bird species differed between Fukushima and Chernobyl. One contrast was that migratory birds fared worst in the mutagenic landscape of Chernobyl than year-round residents, whereas the opposite was true for Fukushima.
"It suggests to us that what we're seeing in Fukushima right now is primarily through the direct result of exposure to radiation that's generating a toxic effect-because the residents are getting a bigger dose by being there longer, they're more affected," said Mousseau. "Whereas in Chernobyl, many generations later, the migrants are more affected, and one possibility is that this reflects differences in mutation accumulation."
The findings are published in the Journal of Ornithology.
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