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Concept: Zone of alienation


Following the 1986 Chernobyl accident, 116,000 people were permanently evacuated from the 4,200 km(2) Chernobyl exclusion zone [1]. There is continuing scientific and public debate surrounding the fate of wildlife that remained in the abandoned area. Several previous studies of the Chernobyl exclusion zone (e.g. [2,3]) indicated major radiation effects and pronounced reductions in wildlife populations at dose rates well below those thought [4,5] to cause significant impacts. In contrast, our long-term empirical data showed no evidence of a negative influence of radiation on mammal abundance. Relative abundances of elk, roe deer, red deer and wild boar within the Chernobyl exclusion zone are similar to those in four (uncontaminated) nature reserves in the region and wolf abundance is more than 7 times higher. Additionally, our earlier helicopter survey data show rising trends in elk, roe deer and wild boar abundances from one to ten years post-accident. These results demonstrate for the first time that, regardless of potential radiation effects on individual animals, the Chernobyl exclusion zone supports an abundant mammal community after nearly three decades of chronic radiation exposures.

Concepts: Chernobyl disaster, Deer, Zone of alienation, Abundance, Abundance of the chemical elements, Wildlife, Megafauna of Eurasia, Venison


In April and August 2015, two major fires in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone (CEZ) caused concerns about the secondary radioactive contamination that might have spread over Europe. The present paper assessed, for the first time, the impact of these fires over Europe. About 10.9 TBq of (137)Cs, 1.5 TBq of (90)Sr, 7.8 GBq of (238)Pu, 6.3 GBq of (239)Pu, 9.4 GBq of (240)Pu and 29.7 GBq of (241)Am were released from both fire events corresponding to a serious event. The more labile elements escaped easier from the CEZ, whereas the larger refractory particles were removed more efficiently from the atmosphere mainly affecting the CEZ and its vicinity. During the spring 2015 fires, about 93% of the labile and 97% of the refractory particles ended in Eastern European countries. Similarly, during the summer 2015 fires, about 75% of the labile and 59% of the refractory radionuclides were exported from the CEZ with the majority depositing in Belarus and Russia. Effective doses were above 1 mSv y(-1) in the CEZ, but much lower in the rest of Europe contributing an additional dose to the Eastern European population, which is far below a dose from a medical X-ray.

Concepts: Chernobyl disaster, Europe, Eastern Europe, Zone of alienation, Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, Nuclear power, Radioactive contamination, Nuclear safety


Deformation of the ground surface at active volcanoes provides information about magma movements at depth. Improved seafloor deformation measurements between 2011 and 2015 documented a fourfold increase in magma supply and confirmed that Axial Seamount’s eruptive behavior is inflation-predictable, probably triggered by a critical level of magmatic pressure. A 2015 eruption was successfully forecast on the basis of this deformation pattern and marked the first time that deflation and tilt were captured in real time by a new seafloor cabled observatory, revealing the timing, location, and volume of eruption-related magma movements. Improved modeling of the deformation suggests a steeply dipping prolate-spheroid pressure source beneath the eastern caldera that is consistent with the location of the zone of highest melt within the subcaldera magma reservoir determined from multichannel seismic results.

Concepts: Zone of alienation, Volcano, Magma, Basalt, Lava, Volcanology, Magma chamber, Mantle plume


The discrepancy between laboratory or controlled conditions ecotoxicity tests and field data on wildlife chronically exposed to ionising radiation is presented for the first time. We reviewed the available chronic radiotoxicity data acquired in contaminated fields and used a statistical methodology to support the comparison with knowledge on inter-species variation of sensitivity to controlled external γ irradiation. We focus on the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone and effects data on terrestrial wildlife reported in the literature corresponding to chronic dose rate exposure situations (from background ~100 nGy/h up to ~10 mGy/h). When needed, we reconstructed the dose rate to organisms and obtained consistent unbiased data sets necessary to establish the dose rate-effect relationship for a number of different species and endpoints. Then, we compared the range of variation of radiosensitivity of species from the Chernobyl-Exclusion Zone with the statistical distribution established for terrestrial species chronically exposed to purely gamma external irradiation (or chronic Species radioSensitivity Distribution - SSD). We found that the best estimate of the median value (HDR50) of the distribution established for field conditions at Chernobyl (about 100 μGy/h) was eight times lower than the one from controlled experiments (about 850 μGy/h), suggesting that organisms in their natural environmental were more sensitive to radiation. This first comparison highlights the lack of mechanistic understanding and the potential confusion coming from sampling strategies in the field. To confirm the apparent higher sensitive of wildlife in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, we call for more a robust strategy in field, with adequate design to deal with confounding factors.

Concepts: Ionizing radiation, Statistics, Species, Chernobyl disaster, Radiobiology, Field, Zone of alienation, Radiation poisoning


Fine tuning of the Wnt/β-catenin signaling pathway is essential for the proper development and function of the liver. Aberrant activation of this pathway is observed in 20%-40% of hepatocellular carcinomas (HCC). Notum encodes a secreted Wnt deacylase that inhibits Wnt activity and thereby restricts the zone of activation of Wnt/β-catenin signaling. An important role of NOTUM has been described in development in drosophila, planaria and zebrafish, but its role in the mammalian liver is unknown. Notum is required for spatial control of the Wnt/β-catenin signaling in several animal models and the Wnt/β-catenin pathway contributes to liver patterning involved in metabolic zonation. Therefore, Notum may be involved in the liver patterning induced by the Wnt/β-catenin signaling during the adult stage.

Concepts: Insulin, Cytosol, Insect, Model organism, Liver, Regeneration, Zone of alienation, The Zone


We developed a novel optogenetic tool, SxIP-improved light-inducible dimer (iLID), to facilitate the reversible recruitment of factors to microtubule (MT) plus ends in an end-binding protein-dependent manner using blue light. We show that SxIP-iLID can track MT plus ends and recruit tgRFP-SspB upon blue light activation. We used this system to investigate the effects of cross-linking MT plus ends and F-actin in Drosophila melanogaster S2 cells to gain insight into spectraplakin function and mechanism. We show that SxIP-iLID can be used to temporally recruit an F-actin binding domain to MT plus ends and cross-link the MT and F-actin networks. Cross-linking decreases MT growth velocities and generates a peripheral MT exclusion zone. SxIP-iLID facilitates the general recruitment of specific factors to MT plus ends with temporal control enabling researchers to systematically regulate MT plus end dynamics and probe MT plus end function in many biological processes.

Concepts: Biology, Eukaryote, Polymer chemistry, Drosophila melanogaster, Drosophila, Zone of alienation, Cross-link, Recruitment


This study addresses a significant data deficiency in the developing environmental protection framework of the International Commission on Radiological Protection, namely a lack of radionuclide transfer data for some of the Reference Animals and Plants (RAPs). It is also the first study that has sampled such a wide range of species (invertebrates, plants, amphibians and small mammals) from a single terrestrial site in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone (CEZ). Samples were collected in 2014 from the 0.4 km2sampling site, located 5 km west of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power complex. We report radionuclide (137Cs,90Sr,241Am and Pu-isotopes) and stable element concentrations in wildlife and soil samples and use these to determine whole organism-soil concentration ratios and absorbed dose rates. Increasingly, stable element analyses are used to provide transfer parameters for radiological models. The study described here found that for both Cs and Sr the transfer of the stable element tended to be lower than that of the radionuclide; this is the first time that this has been demonstrated for Sr, though it is in agreement with limited evidence previously reported for Cs. Studies reporting radiation effects on wildlife in the CEZ generally relate observations to ambient dose rates determined using handheld dose meters. For the first time, we demonstrate that ambient dose rates may underestimate the actual dose rate for some organisms by more than an order of magnitude. When reporting effects studies from the CEZ, it has previously been suggested that the area has comparatively low natural background dose rates. However, on the basis of data reported here, dose rates to wildlife from natural background radionuclides within the CEZ are similar to those in many areas of Europe.

Concepts: Ionizing radiation, Chernobyl disaster, Radioactive decay, Zone of alienation, Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, Radiation poisoning, Radioactive contamination, Absorbed dose


Protected species are the focus of many radiological environmental assessments. However, the lack of radioecological data for many protected species presents a significant international challenge. Furthermore, there are legislative restrictions on destructive sampling of protected species to obtain such data. Where data are not available, extrapolations are often made from ‘similar’ species but there has been little attempt to validate this approach. In this paper we present what, to our knowledge, is the first study purposefully designed to test the hypothesis that radioecological data for unprotected species can be used to estimate conservative radioecolgical parameters for protected species; conservatism being necessary to ensure that there is no significant impact. The study was conducted in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone. Consequently, we are able to present data for Pu isotopes in terrestrial wildlife. There has been limited research on Pu transfer to terrestrial wildlife which contrasts with the need to assess radiation exposure of wildlife to Pu isotopes around many nuclear facilities internationally. Our results provide overall support for the hypothesis that data for unprotected species can be used to adequately assess the impacts for ionising radiation on protected species. This is demonstrated for a range of mammalian and avian species. However, we identify one case, the shrew, for which data from other ground-dwelling small mammals would not lead to an appropriately conservative assessment of radiation impact. This indicates the need to further test our hypothesis across a range of species and ecosystems, and/or ensure adequate conservatism within assessments. The data presented are of value to those trying to more accurately estimate the radiation dose to wildlife in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, helping to reduce the considerable uncertainty in studies reporting dose-effect relationships for wildlife. A video abstract for this paper is available from:

Concepts: Ionizing radiation, Chernobyl disaster, Radiobiology, Mammal, Zone of alienation, Nuclear weapon, Nuclear power, Radiation poisoning


Anaerobic methane oxidation coupled to denitrification, also known as “nitrate/nitrite-dependent anaerobic methane oxidation” (n-damo), was discovered in 2006. Since then, only a few studies have identified this process and the associated microorganisms in natural environments. In aquatic sediments, the close proximity of oxygen- and nitrate-consumption zones can mask n-damo as aerobic methane oxidation. We therefore investigated the vertical distribution and the abundance of denitrifying methanotrophs related to Candidatus Methylomirabilis oxyfera with cultivation-independent molecular techniques in the sediments of Lake Constance. Additionally, the vertical distribution of methane oxidation and nitrate consumption zones was inferred from high-resolution microsensor profiles in undisturbed sediment cores. M. oxyfera-like bacteria were virtually absent at shallow-water sites (littoral sediment) and were very abundant at deep-water sites (profundal sediment). In profundal sediment, the vertical distribution of M. oxyfera-like bacteria showed a distinct peak in anoxic layers that coincided with the zone of methane oxidation and nitrate consumption, a strong indication for n-damo carried out by M. oxyfera-like bacteria. Both potential n-damo rates calculated from cell densities (660-4,890 µmol CH4⋅m(-2)⋅d(-1)) and actual rates calculated from microsensor profiles (31-437 µmol CH4⋅m(-2)⋅d(-1)) were sufficiently high to prevent methane release from profundal sediment solely by this process. Additionally, when nitrate was added to sediment cores exposed to anoxic conditions, the n-damo zone reestablished well below the sediment surface, completely preventing methane release from the sediment. We conclude that the previously overlooked n-damo process can be the major methane sink in stable freshwater environments if nitrate is available in anoxic zones.

Concepts: Oxygen, Bacteria, Lake, Eutrophication, Zone of alienation, Methane, Denitrification, Anoxic event


Establishing different types of conservation zones is becoming commonplace. However, spatial prioritization methods that can accommodate multiple zones are poorly understood in theory and application. It is typically assumed that management regulations across zones have differential levels of effectiveness (“zone effectiveness”) for biodiversity protection, but the influence of zone effectiveness on achieving conservation targets has not yet been explored. Here, we consider the zone effectiveness of three zones: permanent closure, partial protection, and open, for planning for the protection of five different marine habitats in the Vatu-i-Ra Seascape, Fiji. We explore the impact of differential zone effectiveness on the location and costs of conservation priorities. We assume that permanent closure zones are fully effective at protecting all habitats, open zones do not contribute towards the conservation targets and partial protection zones lie between these two extremes. We use four different estimates for zone effectiveness and three different estimates for zone cost of the partial protection zone. To enhance the practical utility of the approach, we also explore how much of each traditional fishing ground can remain open for fishing while still achieving conservation targets. Our results show that all of the high priority areas for permanent closure zones would not be a high priority when the zone effectiveness of the partial protection zone is equal to that of permanent closure zones. When differential zone effectiveness and costs are considered, the resulting marine protected area network consequently increases in size, with more area allocated to permanent closure zones to meet conservation targets. By distributing the loss of fishing opportunity equitably among local communities, we find that 84-88% of each traditional fishing ground can be left open while still meeting conservation targets. Finally, we summarize the steps for developing marine zoning that accounts for zone effectiveness.

Concepts: Natural resource, Protection, Zone of alienation, Habitat conservation, Overfishing, Priority level, Priority