Lake life around Chernobyl said thriving

April 26, 2011 at 8:48 PM

PORTSMOUTH, England, April 26 (UPI) -- Lake wildlife near the Chernobyl nuclear disaster site is thriving, with effects of radiation apparently offset by the absence of humans, U.K. researchers say.

Researchers from the University of Portsmouth in the United Kingdom studied eight lakes contaminated by the 1986 Ukraine nuclear disaster, measuring the abundance and diversity of the invertebrates living there, NewScientist.com reported Tuesday.

Some lakes had almost no measurable levels of radiation, while others had levels 300 times higher than normal, but neither the populations of animals found in the lakes nor their overall diversity were affected by the levels, the researchers said.

In fact, the most contaminated lake, Glubokoye, had the most diverse ecosystem.

"It's thriving," Portsmouth's Jim Smith said.

However, the radiation in the area is still well above safe levels for humans, Smith said, so long-term exposure from the world's worst nuclear power plant disaster could mean an increase in chances of someone developing cancer.

"You still wouldn't want to live there," he said.

Smith says the evacuation of all humans from the area after the disaster has been a boon to the local wildlife, with endangered species such as European bison and wild Przewalski's horses making a comeback.

"It demonstrates the impact humans have on ecosystems," Smith said.

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