Occupancy, distribution, and density of carnivores within the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone
Webster, Sarah Catherine
MetadataShow full item record
All species are exposed to ionizing radiation from both natural and anthropogenic sources. Although it is widely recognized that acute radiation exposure can have negative effects on wildlife, there are significant data gaps regarding the effects of chronic low-dose exposure and no consensus on the potential environmental impacts of nuclear energy or accidents. To elucidate effects of chronic radiation exposure on wildlife, I used multiple non-invasive survey techniques to estimate occupancy, distribution, and density of several species within the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone. I found that radiation density did not significantly influence the aforementioned population characteristics but rather habitat characteristics influenced trends in occupancy and distribution. Furthermore, I found that several mammalian species, including predators such as gray wolves, were abundant throughout the exclusion zone, including areas highly contaminated with radiation. Overall, my results demonstrate that chronic radiation exposure is not limiting the persistence of wildlife species within the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone.