Cooperation with the UK Natural Environment Research Council represented by the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (NERC-CEH)

Customer: Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (NERC-CEH), the United Kingdom

Objective: obtain parameters of radioecology simulation through the quantitative assessment of uncertainty related to simplified models of radiation impact on humans and animals, their in-the-field testing.

Within the framework of cooperation agreement on radioecology of June 25, 2013 that was concluded between ChC and the UK Natural Environment Research Council as represented by the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (hereinafter referred to as “NERC-CEH”), a set of joint activities was accomplished within ChEZ in support of TREE European Project (TRansfer – Exposure – Effects).

The experimental investigations were based on four interrelated operating units:
• “Biochemical processes and radionuclides behavior in ‘soil-plant’ systems;
• “New approach to the estimation of specific activity of radionuclides in food chains”;
• “Estimation of uncertainty for in-the-field exposure of wild animals”;
• “Improving the concepts of long-term effects of chronic exposure”.

In 2014, ChC performed the following lines of activities:
1. Estimation of radionuclide transfer coefficients in ‘soil-plant’ chain in the soils with different agrochemical characteristics.
2. Estimation of radionuclide concentration coefficients in various components of terrestrial ecosystems.
3. Estimation of uncertainty parameters in territorial behavior of animals within individual sites, as a part of radiation dose formation.

As for the first line of activities, soil samples, being the most typical for the region, were taken from the two meadow and three forest sites that have not been contaminated with Chornobyl fallout (i.e. “reference sites”). Co-participants of the project representing the University of Nottingham (UK) shall further analyze soil properties regarding the absorption and transfer of radionuclides to model plants.

Aim of the second activity line is to determine concentration ratios for 99Tc, 90Sr, 137Cs, 238,239,240Pu, 241Am in the so-called reference organisms (Reference Animals and Plants – RAPs), which are used by the International Commission on Radiological Protections (ICRP) to assess risks and make forecasts (ICRP Publication No. 114). To this end, 200×300m site was selected in the “Red Forest” and samples from various components of the ecosystem were taken there (the biological ones refer to reference organisms), particularly soil, grass, pine (wood, needles, branches, cones), earthworms, wild bees, moor frog, yellow-necked mouse.

The specific activity of 90Sr and 137Cs was estimated in all the samples. During developing the report, the works to estimate concentrations of 241Am and 238,239,240Pu were in progress.

The purpose of the third line is to link uneven radiation conditions within the site supposing potential radiation exposure of animals to the specific features of their territorial behavior. Unlike the direct dose measurement method that involves individual dosimeters fixed on the animal, which movement is simultaneously monitored by telemetry methods, this study proposed a cheaper extensive method of automatic photo-registration of animals at fixed points of large network covering a vast area. The research results shall also allow assessment of species structure and relative number of animals on sites with different radiation conditions.

Within the framework of this research, 14 trail digital cameras were placed on the three predefined sites within ChEZ with radically different radiation conditions (“high”, “medium” and “low” levels of contamination) and with 10 km diameter in November 2014. General parameters of radiation conditions were determined for the camera location points, each point was georeferenced. All cameras have the same settings, orientation, and position above the ground level. The project duration is one year, and then the cameras shall be moved every 7-8 weeks to new points within the sites.

On November 15 – 17, 2014, Mr. Nicholas A. Beresford and Mr. Michael D. Wood, representatives of NERC-CEH, paid a working visit to install trail cameras and discuss operational issues of the joint project.

In 2015, we carried out the works for studying uncertainty factor effects for the assessment of radiation exposure in wild animals in the field.

In 2016, the Chornobyl Center performed works in the following areas:

  1. Assessment of the ChEZ ungulates and predators nutrition by the method of genetic identification of ration ingredients in animal’s droppings (pilot project).
  2. Assessment of radiation effects in:
  • Species diversity, territorial distribution and population characteristics of bumblebees in ChEZ;
  • Characteristics of reproduction and population genetics in Daphnia;
  • Characteristics of reproduction and population genetics in wild fruit flies (Drosophila);
  • Biological activity of pedobionts.
  1. Assessment of species diversity and relative abundance of animals on the sites with different radioecological conditions by the methods of photo and audio automatic registration.

4. Assessment of species composition and territorial distribution of large animals in the conditions of the Red Forest.

In 2017 the ChC performed the activities under the following directions (RB3, RB4):

  1. Assessment of nutrition of ungulates and predators by the method of genetic identification of ration components in the animals’ droppings (pilot project).
  2. Estimation of radiation factors’ affects on biological activity of pedobionts.
  3. Estimation of species composition and territorial distribution of large animals in conditions of the Red Forest.
  4. Estimation of the efficiency of reproduction of cavity nesting birds in areas with different radiation conditions and radiation effects.
  5. Studies of vegetation restoration processes in the Red Forest after the fire of 2016.

Studies of the effect of radiation and pyrogenic factors on the condition of small mammals living in the Red Forest.

In 2018 the activities were performed under the following directions:

  1. Assessment of biological activity of pedobionts under the conditions of high radiation contamination and consequences of the fire of 2016.
  2. Studies of vegetation restoration processes in the Red Forest after the fire of 2016.
  3. Estimation of the efficiency of reproduction of cavity nesting birds in areas with different radiation conditions and radiation effects.

Studies of the effect of radiation factors on the condition of small mammals living in areas with different radiation conditions.