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In the areas with no radiation, 70 to 90 percent of the leaves were gone after a year. But in places where more radiation was present, the leaves retained around 60 percent of their original weight. By comparing the mesh with the panty hose-lined bags, they found that insects play a significant role in getting rid of the leaves, but that the microbes and fungi played a much more important role. Because they had so many bags placed in so many different locations, they were able to statistically control for outside factors such as humidity, temperature and forest and soil type to make sure that there wasn’t anything besides radiation levels impacting the leaves’ decomposition.
Because they had so many bags placed in so many different locations, they were able to statistically control for outside factors such as humidity, temperature and forest and soil type to make sure that there wasn’t anything besides radiation levels impacting the leaves’ decomposition.
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.
Professor Smith, an environmental physicist at the School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, said: "I wasn't really surprised by these findings -- there have been many high profile findings on the radiation damage to wildlife at Chernobyl but it's very difficult to see significant damage and we are not convinced by some of the claims. "We can't rule out some effect on wildlife of the radiation, but wildlife populations in the exclusion zone around Chernobyl have recovered and are actually doing well and even better than before because the human population has been removed."
Despite substantial efforts in avoidance of contamination, an upward trend in the number of outbreaks of foodborne illnesses caused by nonsporeforming pathogenic bacteria are reported in many countries. Good hygienic practices can reduce the level of contamination but the most important pathogens cannot presently be eliminated from most farms nor is it possible to eliminate them by primary processing, particularly from those foods which are sold raw. Several decontamination methods exist but the most versatile treatment among them is the processing with ionizing radiation. Decontamination of food by ionizing radiation is a safe, efficient, environmentally clean and energy efficient process. Irradiation is particularly valuable as an endproduct decontamination procedure.
I think such a fundamental process of decay being inhibited is likely not a good sign (long term).