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New research suggests even low-level radiation in Fukushima negatively impacting wildlife

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By Jessica Kozuka

Dr Timothy Mousseau, professor of Biological Sciences at the University of South Carolina and researcher for the Chernobyl and Fukushima Research Initiative, presented new findings to the International Ornithological Congress in Tokyo last week that suggest radiation contamination around Fukushima Daiichi, even at low levels, is negatively impacting biodiversity and wildlife populations.

Mousseau and his collaborators have been monitoring radiation levels at 1,500 sites and bird populations at 400 points across Fukushima over the last 3 years. The lay of the land and dispersal patterns of radioactive matter have created a very heterogenous situation in the Fukushima exclusion zone, meaning areas of high radiation lie right alongside areas of low radiation. By controlling for other environmental factors, the scientists can apply a rigorous statistical analysis to predict what the population in a particular area should be.

Using this method, Mousseau et al have found both the number of birds and the variety of species drop off as radiation levels rise, and more importantly, that there is no threshold under which the effect isn’t seen.

This is counter to what both the Japanese government and the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation have said regarding low-level radiation. In a report on the situation in Fukushima released in April, UNSCEAR said, “Exposures of both marine and terrestrial non-human biota following the accident were, in general, too low for acute effects to be observed,” although the report goes on to hedge that “changes in biomarkers cannot be ruled out.” Indeed, Mousseau and the Wild Bird Society of Japan report seeing partial albinism in Fukushima birds, a condition rarely seen outside of Chernobyl (see photo below).

Citing years of research in Chernobyl and meta-analysis of studies on areas with naturally occurring radiation, Mouseau says, “Contrary to government reports, there is now an abundance of information demonstrating consequences, in other words, injury, to individuals, populations, species, and ecosystem function stemming from low-dose radiation.”

What we need now, he continues, is more funding for research into what this means in the long term, for the flora and fauna of Fukushima, as well as for the people who live alongside them.

Read more stories from RocketNews24. -- Incidences of thyroid cancer on the rise among Fukushima children -- JAXA Invents Camera That Measures Radiation -- Tokyo Clinic to Test Internal Radiation Exposure

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6 Comments
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Another piece of independent research confirming that the "official" reports on the radiation and effects of radiation in Fukushima have been dramatically understated.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

You can see Dr Timothy Mousseau's recent Press conference at the Foreign Correspondent club here : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8IcTGUMwVtU "In Chernobyl, there are mechanisms in place to promote ... scientific investigation in that region... in Japan, in Fujkushima ... there's no entry at all for formal research activities in the zone. There's almost no funding available directly for this kind of research.""Is it fair to say the UN is downplaying the damage? Can we call it a cover-up?"Prof. Mousseau on the ongoing effects of radiation on the ecosystem in Fukushima. As bad as Chernobyl. Verified and drastic decline in wildlife populations with increasing amounts of radiation present. "I'm not an anti-nuclear activist. What I am is an activist for evidence-based policy on the environment. But I found it necessary to step up because the message wasn't getting out.... contrary to governmental reports, there is now an abundance of information demonstrating consequences (i.e. injury) to individuals, population, and ecosystem function due to the low-dose radiation from Chernobyl and Fukushima."

1 ( +1 / -0 )

The distribution of people/food/farming have also changed a lot, so it is possible that the changes in animal populations are related to these. It is likely that a lot of the easy food supply came from human produced food and irrigated environments.

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" Using this method, Mousseau et al have found both the number of birds and the variety of species drop off as radiation levels rise, "

Strange that in the closed zone of Chernoby, where radiation levels are exponentially higher, the exact OPPOSITE is the case... the area has become a nature paradise.

Dare I guess that the computer models concocted by the good researcher, working for the completele unbiased (ahem) "Chernobyl and Fukushima Research Initiative" has something to do with that?

-4 ( +0 / -4 )

WilliBSep. 01, 2014 - 04:33PM JST

" Using this method, Mousseau et al have found both the number of birds and the variety of species drop off as radiation levels rise, "

Strange that in the closed zone of Chernoby, where radiation levels are exponentially higher, the exact OPPOSITE is the case... the area has become a nature paradise.

Actually bird life in Chernobyl died off considerably after the accident:

The effects of radiation on abundance of common birds in Fukushima can be assessed from the effects of radiation in Chernobyl. Abundance of birds was negatively related to radiation, with a significant difference between Fukushima and Chernobyl. Analysis of 14 species common to the two areas revealed a negative effect of radiation on abundance, differing between areas and species. The relationship between abundance and radiation was more strongly negative in Fukushima than in Chernobyl for the same 14 species, demonstrating a negative consequence of radiation for birds immediately after the accident on 11 March 2011 during the main breeding season in March–July, when individuals work close to their maximum sustainable level. (Source: Møller, Anders Pape, et al. "Abundance of birds in Fukushima as judged from Chernobyl." Environmental Pollution 164 (2012): 36-39.)

There are other research papers, but one should do it.

Decades AFTER Chernobyl there are more bird species in the area, but that's largely a function of more radiation-resistant species moving in to fill the ecological gaps left by the bird species that died off. The same will probably be true of Fukushima in a decade or so, but your argument in no way disproves the findings in this research about using certain bird species as an indirect measure of radiation.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Birds spreading fallout :( ... topic of horror movie ...

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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