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Science

Plants Near Chernobyl Adapt To Contaminated Soil 293

Posted by samzenpus
from the it's-what-plants-crave dept.
lbalbalba writes "In April 1986, a nuclear reactor at the Chernobyl power plant in Ukraine exploded and sent radioactive particles flying through the air, infiltrating the surrounding soil. Despite the colossal disaster, some plants in the area seem to have adapted well, flourishing in the contaminated soil."
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Plants Near Chernobyl Adapt To Contaminated Soil

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  • by ChipMonk (711367) on Wednesday September 22, 2010 @07:14PM (#33670632) Journal
    in "Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind"?

    Adapt or die.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 22, 2010 @07:19PM (#33670688)

    I distinctly remembered that people born white in desert(ed) climates (think Michigan) would actually adapt in similar ways: their skin turned black, they developed ignorance, their hair got short and kinky, light barrels of trash on fire to keep warm, and line-up at every line of people leading into a government building to assume free handouts.

  • Cool, but old news. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by dcposch (1438157) on Wednesday September 22, 2010 @07:31PM (#33670796)

    Yes, evolution is alive and well. A species of bacteria evolved in the early 70s that can digest nylon [wikipedia.org].

    I think this news is a nice reality check on that annoying but vocal cadre of environmentalists that are always predicting some kind of terrible apocalypse within the next couple of decades. Global cooling [wikipedia.org], for example. Not to mention a nifty "myth busted" moment for that old Hollywood trope of a post-nuclear wasteland.

    I'm definitely not saying we shouldn't take care of our environment, by the way, and I'm certainly not an AGW denialist. The specific way things are now matters a lot to us fickle and fragile humans. If the sea level rises by another yard, the crabs will just move. The Venetians are the ones that would be screwed.

    I'm just saying that nature is more resilient than people usually imagine.

  • No predator(s)? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by An anonymous Frank (559486) <<frank> <at> <harrystotle.com>> on Wednesday September 22, 2010 @09:03PM (#33671410) Homepage

    Could it be that whatever fauna that survived, adapted and/or now thrives might do so under conditions perhaps harsher due to radiation, yet plausibly improved by a potentially reduced presence of any predator species, whom may not have fared as well, or may have been displaced?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 22, 2010 @10:23PM (#33671826)
    I hate to tell you but 10' catfish aren't that uncommon. Go check the noodling sites sometime and you'll find plenty that are over 8 foot long in populated areas where rednecks eat catfish and a fair number of well documented 10 footers too. Put those same catfish in areas where the rednecks would be afraid to eat them or even use the waterways for transport and guess what you'd find? These things would thrive in the right conditions. Even 6 foot trout are known outside of radioactively contaminated areas.

    People are living and farming within 20 miles of the plant and there is a known substantial population of elk, deer, wolf, fox and others in the so-called dead zone and they've been there for years. I'm not saying it's safe or even that it's tolerable but it is happening.

    You might know enough to sound a little learned when it comes to reactors but it's nothing that anyone else here couldn't have figured out for themselves in 10 minutes using Google. What you clearly don't know about is the fact that you're dead wrong about Prypiat and it's current ecosystem.
  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Wednesday September 22, 2010 @10:36PM (#33671898) Journal
    There aren't many natural sources of substantial radiation, unless you go digging up and concentrating the relevant elements or go far enough back in earth's history that plants hadn't been invented yet. There is virtually no call for the adaptation of radiation resistance, outside of a few man made regions.

    However, as it happens, the biochemical adaptations required to survive severe dessication or extreme heat(which, like radiation, pretty much go all bull-in-a-china-shop on your genome and metabolically important molecules) happen to, in a number of cases, be pretty useful in radiation resistance as well. Bacteria like d. radiodurans, t. gammatolerans, and organisms like tardigrades are extremely radiation resistant; but as a side effect of their adaptations to heat and dessication.

    Given the survival value, particularly for seeds, of being able to survive hard times and then germinate, or aggressively seize territory(and light) left open by forest fires, it wouldn't be a total surprise if plants had picked up a few adaptations in the same vein...
  • by NotQuiteReal (608241) on Wednesday September 22, 2010 @10:41PM (#33671920) Journal
    "What does not kill me, makes me stronger."

    "I have called this principle, by which each slight variation, if useful, is preserved, by the term Natural Selection"

    Nietzsche, Darwin, what's the difference.
  • Re:Mother nature (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 23, 2010 @12:56AM (#33672460)
    Off the top of my head, I can think of three reasons:
    • The scale of change we can (and do) bring to the planet.
    • Humans tend to stratify themselves relative to other animals, and animals relative to other forms of life.
    • The large variety of inventions we're responsible for, and that many of them are so complex and contrived compared to the materials used as input in their creation.

    Bees makes honey. We make many, many types of sweeteners -- some merely by collecting and lightly processing (e.g., filtering, cooking), and some through the creation of chemical compounds by our hand (rather than, e.g., enzymes or processes within our bodies) that either become the sweeteners or are applied to other materials to modify them into sweeteners (or change an existing sweetener on a molecular or chemical level. Beavers make fairly significant dams, but they're not great at finding new materials -- even pretty basic stuff like digging up the ground, finding clay, and seeing whether that works isn't in their purview; I'm not holding my breath for them to figure out how to manufacture fiberglass or low-E windows.

    Obviously, it's a question of degree (and semantics). I definitely fall on the side of calling many of our inventions artificial and not of nature.

  • by tehcyder (746570) on Thursday September 23, 2010 @08:48AM (#33674792) Journal

    Most areas around Chernobyl are pretty harmlessly radioactive unless you a) spend a long time there or b) get some of the radioactive stuff on or in you and it sticks with you for an extended period of time.

    You have a strange definition of harmless.

    To me "it's OK if you were a protecive suit, mask and gloves, speed through without stopping and get hosed off at the other end" sounds more like a pretty good definition of a hazardous environment, but maybe I'm just a wuss.

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