Chernobyl’s Legacy Effects of Chronic Radiation Exposure on Carnivores from the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone

Meeting Abstract

P3-24  Saturday, Jan. 7 15:30 – 17:30  Chernobyl’s Legacy: Effects of Chronic Radiation Exposure on Carnivores from the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone LOVE, CN*; WEBSTER, SC; BEASLEY, JC; HINTON, TG; BYRNE, ME; SHAMOVICH, D; LANCE, SL; Univ. of Georgia; Univ. of Georgia; Univ. of Georgia; Fukushima Univ.; Univ. of Georgia; Vitebsk Region, Belarus; Univ. of Georgia

Nuclear energy production is increasing globally, yet long term ecological implications of radiation exposure from industrial practices or accidents are unclear. Acute radiation exposure causes morbidity and mortality and can affect immune responses. However, robust data are lacking regarding chronic radiation exposure. The Chernobyl Exclusion Zone (CEZ, evacuated since 1986) harbors a heterogeneous radioactive landscape (40 – >7,500 KBq/m2) and offers an ideal system to investigate the effects of chronic radiation exposure. Carnivores are at higher risk for accumulation of contaminants due to their high trophic level and long life span and provide a good model system. We studied two carnivore species, the gray wolf (Canis lupus) and raccoon dog (Nyctereutes procyonoides ), to allow for comparisons of exposure on species with differing spatial requirements and life history traits. During 2014-2016 we collected data on carnivores within the CEZ to examine the effects of radiation exposure, demography, and environmental attributes on parasite and disease prevalence. Radiation levels did not influence carnivore distribution, however, our preliminary data indicate a positive correlation between radiation exposure and parasite loads of Coccidia and Alaria species, which may indicate complex sub-lethal effects experienced by chronically exposed individuals. We are continuing this work to address parasite and disease prevalence as a function of radiocesium body burden counts, population density, and habitat characteristics to provide insight into population level implications of chronic radiation contamination exposure.

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