Radioisotope contamination from Chernobyl degrading microbial ecosystem services?

In a a new study (also covered by, researchers placed 572 bags of leaf litter in 20 sites within the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, and found that rates of decomposition varied by as much as 40%, correlating with the level of radioactive contamination at the site.

The authors suggest that this is a worrying development, as a buildup of brush and leaf litter increases fire risk in the most heavily contaminated regions. A large fire would mobilize radioactive particles and could spread them a great distance beyond the Exclusion Zone.


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Russell Neches

A microbiology graduate student at UC Davis, working with Jonathan Eisen @phylogenomics . Studies evolution & ecology. Advocate of Open Hardware & Open Access.