From nuclear desert to evolutionary lab: The response of living organisms to Chernobyl’s ionising radiation

German Orizaola


The 1986 accident at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine caused the worst human-caused release of radioactive material in history. Initial forecasts considered that the area affected by radioactive contamination would be devoid of life for millennia. Three decades later, the biodiversity of the area has completely recovered and all the large mammals of Eastern Europe, as well as over 200 bird species, now live in Chernobyl. The mechanisms that allow organisms to live in this area are still the subject of study and controversy. There is currently no scientific consensus on the medium- and long-term impact of radiation on the nature of the area. Thus, basic research is required in Chernobyl to understand the effects that radioactive contamination had on biodiversity there. The area is also an excellent natural laboratory for studying eco-evolutionary processes in response to human activity.


ecology; evolution; adaptation; mutation; radioactivity; Chernobyl

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