Wildlife thrives around Chernobyl disaster site

‘This doesn’t mean radiation is good for wildlife, just that the effects of human habitation … are a lot worse’

A family of moose roams free in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone. Credit Valeriy Yurko/Polessye State Radioecological Reserve

A family of moose in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone.
Credit: Valeriy Yurko/Polessye State Radioecological Reserve.

Staff Report

Wildlife is thriving in the area around Chernobyl, researchers said in a new study tracking the number of moose, roe deer, red deer, wild boar and wolves in the 1,621-square-mile Chernobyl Exclusion Zone.

The census data shows there are seven times as many wolves in the area than in nearby uncontaminated reserves, along with growing populations of other species. The area was cleared of humans after a 1986 nuclear reactor disaster that polluted the immediate area, as well as distant fallout zones, with radioactive particles.

“This doesn’t mean radiation is good for wildlife, just that the effects of human habitation, including hunting, farming and forestry, are a lot worse,” said Jim Smith, a professor of environmental science at the University of Portsmouth in the U.K. Continue reading

Study tracks spike in zipline accidents

Children under 10 tabbed as most susceptible to serious injury; researchers call for better safety standards

Staff Report

Popular zipline attractions should be subject to uniform safety standards across all jurisdictions to protect children from serious injuries, public health researchers said this week after documenting an alarming spike in injuries.

The Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital found that an estimated 16,850 non-fatal zipline-related injuries were treated in U.S. emergency departments from 1997 through 2012, with 70 percent of the injuries occurred during the last four years of the study period, indicating a growing problem.

In 2012 alone, there were more than 3,600 people treated in U.S. emergency departments for zipline-related injuries, nearly 10 per day. Children younger than 10 years of age accounted for almost half (45 percent) of the zipline-related injuries while youth, ages 10-19, accounted for an additional 33 percent of injured patients. Continue reading

Chile creates largest marine preserve in the Americas

 Photo courtesy Enric Sala/National Geographic

A new marine park off the coast of Chile will help protect important ocean resources. Photo courtesy Enric Sala/National Geographic.

‘A gift to the world …’

Staff Report

The creation of the world’s largest marine park in the Americas could help rebuild fish stocks off the coast of South America, ocean experts said this week, hailing Chile’s announcement that it will protect 297,518 square kilometers as a no-take zone. With the formation of Nazca-Desventuradas, Chile will now protect 12 percent of its marine surface area

 “Chile is one of the world’s primary fishing countries,” said Alex Muñoz, vice president for Oceana in Chile. “With the creation of this large marine park, Chile also becomes a world leader in marine conservation.” Continue reading

Morning photo: City edits

Old town

I took the long way to Upper Austrian press club yesterday, walking across the Danube, then up through the old town to the castle and down the other side into the center of the city. Even following that detour, it’s only a 20 minute walk, but it gave me a chance to check out some of the sights along the way on a friendly and warm autumn day. After meeting some local reporters for lunch in the beer garden, I sat for a few minutes in the town’s main square and edited the morning snapshots for this set. All except the overlook image were run through multiple layers of filters and sharpening to create some grain that, for me, emphasize the cobblestone patterns and the old stone wall behind the statue.

Grassroots support leads to proposal for new marine sanctuaries

Shipwreck areas in Wisconsin and Maryland eyed for protection


NOAA is seeking comments on its proposal to designate two areas in Wisconsin (left) and Maryland (right) as national marine sanctuaries. (Credit: NOAA).

Staff Report

Two historic shipwreck sites could be designated as National Marine Sanctuaries under a proposal outlined by President Barack Obama at an international ocean conference today.

In a press release, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said it’s the first time since 2000 that the agency has identified new sites for that designation. NOAA is taking public comment on the proposal. Continue reading

Web commerce speeds invasive plant threat

himalayan balsam

Himalayan balsam was introduced as an ornamental and quickly spread throughout the northern hemisphere where it’s considered an invasive plant that displaces native flora in some areas. Photo courtesy Royal Horticultural Society.

Swiss study tracks online sales of potential invaders

Staff Report

Online commerce is accelerating the invasive species threat worldwide, Swiss reasearchers said last week after taking a close look at at the unbridled market for buying and selling plants on the internet.

These days, all it takes is one click to spread potentially invasive plants from continent to continent – and unintentionally encouraging biological invasions, the researchers said, referring to invaders like goldenrod, Himalayan balsam and the Chinese windmill palm — all of which now threaten native biodiversity in the Alpine republic.

The assess the extent of the problem, ETH Zurich researchers monitoried online trades of about two-thirds of the world’s flora on eBay plus nine other online trading platforms for 50 days, tracking which plant species were offered for sale in various countries, and how often. Continue reading

Feds track record Central Valley groundwater depletion


California’s Central Valley, as seen from the International Space Station. Photo courtesy NASA Earth Observatory.

‘The Central Valley has many areas where recent groundwater levels are more than 100 feet below previous historical low …’

Staff Report

Farmers in California’s Central Valley pumped more groundwater than ever during the state’s ongoing drought, causing aquifers to drop to new record low levels, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

The agency recently launched a website to help track Central Valley groundwater depletion and land subsidence. A new paper released about the same time shows geographical nuances in the decline. The biggest changes are in the southern Central Valley, where farmers have shifted from planting annual and seasonal crops to perennial plants. Continue reading


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