Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Brightly coloured birds most affected by Chernobyl radiation

11.07.2007
Brightly coloured birds are among the species most adversely affected by the high levels of radiation around the Chernobyl nuclear plant, ecologists have discovered. The findings - published online in the British Ecological Society's Journal of Applied Ecology - help explain why some species are harder hit by ionising radiation than others.

Dr Anders Møller of the Université Pierre et Marie Curie and Professor Timothy Mousseau of the University of South Carolina examined 1,570 birds from 57 different species in the forests around Chernobyl at varying distances from the reactor. They found that populations of four groups of birds - those whose red, yellow and orange plumage is based on carotenoids, those that laid the biggest eggs, and those that migrated or dispersed the furthest - declined more than other species.

The intriguing results centre on the role of antioxidants - chemicals that help protect living organisms from the damaging effects of free radicals. Certain activities use up large amounts of antioxidants. These include producing carotenoid-based pigments for feathers, migrating long distances and laying large eggs (birds lay down antioxidants in their eggs, and will deposit larger amounts of antioxidants in larger eggs). Møller and Mousseau hypothesized that because they had fewer antioxidants left to mop up dangerous free radicals, these birds would most adversely affected by exposure to radiation around Chernobyl.

According to Møller and Mousseau: “We found that bird species differed in their response to radiation from Chernobyl. The strongest declines in population density with radiation level were found for species with carotenoid-based plumage, long-distance migration and dispersal, and large eggs for their body size. All four of these factors are associated with antioxidant levels, suggesting that reduced antioxidant levels may cause population declines when species are exposed to radiation.”

Among the brightly coloured species most affected were orioles, blackbirds and blue tits, while drab species like tree pipits, coal tits and chaffinches were much less affected. Long distance migrants or dispersers that were most affected included quails, orioles, hoopoes, blackbirds and robins, while non-migrant or short-dispersing species like great tits, coal tits and song thrushes were much less affected.

“This is the first study linking the effects of radiation on population size of different species to antioxidant defence. Although all species must cope with the potentially detrimental effects of free radicals, because of their use of antioxidants, certain species are predisposed to suffer most from these negative effects,” they say.

The results could have important implications for other animals elsewhere. According to Møller and Mousseau: “There is large variation in natural levels of radioactivity due to differences in the abundance of radioactive isotopes, mainly in mountain regions where the underlying rock reaches the surface. There are no studies of the biological consequences of such variation in natural levels of radioactivity, but we suggest that some of the consequences can be predicted from the present study.”

A P Møller and T A Mousseau (2007). Determinants of interspecific variation in population declines of birds from exposure to radiation at Chernobyl. Journal of Applied Ecology, doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2664.2007.01353.x is published online on 11 July 2007.

Becky Allen | alfa
Further information:
http://www.britishecologicalsociety.org

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Dune ecosystem modelling
26.06.2017 | Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg im Breisgau

nachricht Understanding animal social networks can aid wildlife conservation
23.06.2017 | Leibniz-Institut für Gewässerökologie und Binnenfischerei (IGB)

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Can we see monkeys from space? Emerging technologies to map biodiversity

An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.

Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...

Im Focus: Climate satellite: Tracking methane with robust laser technology

Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.

Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...

Im Focus: How protons move through a fuel cell

Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.

As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...

Im Focus: A unique data centre for cosmological simulations

Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.

With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...

Im Focus: Scientists develop molecular thermometer for contactless measurement using infrared light

Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine

Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Plants are networkers

19.06.2017 | Event News

Digital Survival Training for Executives

13.06.2017 | Event News

Global Learning Council Summit 2017

13.06.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Study shines light on brain cells that coordinate movement

26.06.2017 | Life Sciences

Smooth propagation of spin waves using gold

26.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Switchable DNA mini-machines store information

26.06.2017 | Information Technology

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>