The Woods Around Chernobyl Aren’t Decaying
Indeed, Smithsonian reports, “decomposers—organisms such as microbes, fungi and some types of insects that drive the process of decay—have also suffered from the contamination. These creatures are responsible for an essential component of any ecosystem: recycling organic matter back into the soil.”
All of that now has been slowed way down, as explored in a new study led by University of South Carolina biologist Timothy Mousseau, just published in Oecologica.
This means the woods are decaying approximately twice as slowly, stretching out their period of decay for years, if not decades, and, in the process, piling up fuel for future forest fires.
As Smithsonian also mentions, this is perhaps the most worrisome aspect of all of this, and all the more reason to be concerned about the radioactive side-effects of such a fire: “Other studies have found that the Chernobyl area is at risk of fire, and 27 years’ worth of leaf litter, Mousseau and his colleagues think, would likely make a good fuel source for such a forest fire. This poses a more worrying problem than just environmental destruction: Fires can potentially redistribute radioactive contaminants to places outside of the exclusion zone, Mousseau says. ‘There is growing concern that there could be a catastrophic fire in the coming years,’ he says.”