University of South Carolina, Prof Tim Mousseau et al, genetic survey of small wildlife, Fukushima.


Environmental Pollution

Volume 164, May 2012, Pages 36–39

Abundance of birds in Fukushima as judged from Chernobyl

Anders Pape Møllera, Corresponding author contact information, E-mail the corresponding author,
Atsushi Hagiwarab,
Shin Matsuic,
Satoe Kasaharac,
Kencho Kawatsud,
Isao Nishiumie,
Hiroyuki Suzukif,
Keisuke Uedac,
Timothy A. Mousseaug

a Laboratoire d’Ecologie, Systématique et Evolution, CNRS UMR 8079, Université Paris-Sud, Bâtiment 362, F-91405 Orsay Cedex, France
b Laboratory of Aquaculture Biology, Faculty of Fisheries, Nagasaki University, Nagasaki 852-8521, Japan
c Department of Life Sciences, Rikkyo University, 3-34-1 Nishi-Ikebukuro, Toshima-ku, Tokyo 171-8501, Japan
d Graduate School of Symbiotic Systems Science and Technology, Fukushima University, 1 Kanayagawa, Fukushima City 960-1296, Japan
e Department of Zoology, National Museum of Nature and Science, 3-23-1 Haykunin-cho, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo 169-0073, Japan
f Value Frontier Co., Ltd., 4-13-7, Minamiazabu, Minato, Tokyo 106-0047, Japan
g Department of Biological Sciences, University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC 29208, USA

Received 6 November 2011. Revised 11 January 2012. Accepted 12 January 2012. Available online 8 February 2012.


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.

► Abundance of birds was negatively related to radiation in Chernobyl and Fukushima. ► Effects of radiation on abundance differed between Chernobyl and Fukushima and among species. ► For 14 species common to the two areas the effects of radiation on abundance were stronger in Fukushima than in Chernobyl.

University of South Carolina Press Release

Bird populations near Fukushima are more diminished than expected

Low-level radiation in Fukushima Prefecture appears to have had immediate effects on bird populations, and to a greater degree than was expected from a related analysis of Chernobyl, an international team of scientists reported Feb. 8 in Environmental Pollution.

In July 2011, the researchers identified and counted birds at 300 locations in Fukushima Prefecture, ranging from 15 to 30 miles from the damaged nuclear complex. Largely still open to human occupation, these areas had external radiation levels from 0.5 to 35 microsieverts per hour.

Overall, the bird community as a whole was significantly diminished in the more contaminated areas.

Moreover, the team compared the results to a similar study they undertook in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone from 2006 through 2009. For 14 species of birds found in both locations, the diminution of population size from increased radiation dose was more pronounced at Fukushima than Chernobyl.

According to co-author Timothy Mousseau, a biologist in the University of South Carolina’s College of Arts and Sciences, this suggests that “these birds, which have never experienced radiation of this intensity before, may be especially sensitive to radioactive contaminants.”

However, when comparing all birds, including the species that are not common to both areas, the overall strength of the negative relationship was stronger in Chernobyl than in Fukushima. The authors believe that this may reflect the fact that many species in the most contaminated regions of Chernobyl have now almost completely disappeared.

The study, among the first published scientific reports concerning impacts on terrestrial animal populations in Fukushima, suggests that there are many similarities between the Chernobyl and Fukushima events and provides new insight into the first-generation effects of radiation exposure on animals in the wild. “Our results point to the need for more research to determine the underlying reasons for differences among species in sensitivity, both initially and following many generations of exposure,” said Mousseau.

Although these early data are critical for setting a baseline, Mousseau added that it’s imperative that “large-scale studies be initiated in Fukushima immediately to make the research potentially much more revealing.”

The research was co-sponsored by QIAGEN GmbH, The Samuel Freeman Charitable Trust, the CNRS (France), and the University of South Carolina.

One Response to “University of South Carolina, Prof Tim Mousseau et al, genetic survey of small wildlife, Fukushima.”

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