It would be logical to think that after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, forests around the site would slowly rot. But the terrible radiation blast in 1986 has left dead trees and leaf litter unable to decompose. A recently published study conducted by a team of US scientists explains the phenomenon of these “petrified” forests, and explores the consequences of the meltdown on local wildlife.
In the 25 years after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, main roads have been cleaned and many areas within the zone have been deemed safe for tourists. The overgrown pastures and forests may be the most reassuring signal for a layman that, perhaps, things aren’t so bad. However, biologist Timothy Mousseau of the University of South Carolina explains that these are the most contaminated and most dangerous areas.
Tim Mousseau and a team of colleagues at the University of South Carolina published a study on the state of the 30km exclusion zone surrounding Chernobyl. Over the course of 12 years Mousseau and his colleagues have been gathering vegetation samples and examining its condition. They notices that the Chernobyl forests loose less than 40% of plant matter, much less than 70% to 90%, which is the normal amount of dead plant matter expected over the course of a year. What’s worse is that this could easily facilitate future forest fires that could spread radioactive contaminants to places outside the exclusion zone.