The destructive earthquake and tsunami that triggered a catastrophe
at Japan’s Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear power plant are now four years
behind us, but the effects of that disaster are still being felt today.
Now a new study has revealed that even as ecosystems slowly recover,
Fukushima’s native bird population is actually dwindling more than ever -
and researchers think they know why.
“A growing body of empirical results from studies of birds, monkeys,
butterflies, and other insects suggests that some species have been
significantly impacted by the radioactive releases related to the
Fukushima disaster,” Timothy Mousseau, a lead researcher behind one of
many ongoing investigations, announced last August.
He explained that a common theme researchers have noticed is that
prolonged exposure to low doses of radiation has a very different effect
on organisms compared to sudden high-level exposure, as seen at
Chernobyl. This came to be called Fukushima’s “insidious effect” and was expected to abate, with lingering radiation levels, by 2016.
“So now we see this really striking drop-off in numbers of birds as well
as numbers of species of birds,” he explained. “Both the biodiversity
and the abundance are showing dramatic impacts in these areas with
higher radiation levels, even as the levels are declining.”
“What’s with these goslings, fox kits, lambs, kittens, ducklings, cubs and cygnets? How can they make us photographers do things, like lying down in the mud and voluntarily crawl through goose shit? Do they have some kind of supernatural powers..? Nope. They have what all baby animals have: The C(ute)-factor.”