How Chernobyl has become an unexpected haven for wildlife

28 September 2020

Many people think the area around the Chernobyl nuclear plant is a place of post-apocalyptic desolation. But more than 30 years after one of the facility’s reactors exploded, sparking the worst nuclear accident in human history, science tells us something very different.

Researchers have found the land surrounding the plant, which has been largely off limits to humans for three decades, has become a haven for wildlife, with lynx, bison, deer and other animals roaming through thick forests. This so-called Chernobyl Exclusion Zone (CEZ), which covers 2,800 square km of northern Ukraine, now represents the third-largest nature reserve in mainland Europe and has become an iconic – if accidental – experiment in rewilding.

“The CEZ is a fascinating example of nature’s power to rebound from degradation,” says Tim Christophersen, head of the United Nations Environment Programme’s (UNEP’s) Nature for Climate Branch.

UNEP is working with Ukraine’s Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources and the State Agency on the CEZ to support that renaissance. A six-year project, launched in 2015 and funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF), titled Conserving, Enhancing and Managing Carbon Stocks and Biodiversity in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, has helped establish a national biosphere reserve around Chernobyl, says UNEP coordinator for Europe Mahir Aliyev, who is managing the project.

Teams have worked closely with the Polesskiy Radiological Reserve in neighbouring Belarus, which was also affected by the Chernobyl disaster, creating a transboundary protected area. “Both reserves will allow natural forest to help cleanse contaminated land and waterways,” says Aliyev.

Continue reading the full story at UN Environment.

For more information on conserving, enhancing and managing carbon stocks and biodiversity in the exclusion zone and UNEP’s work on biodiversityplease contact Mahir Aliyev: Mahir.Aliyev@un.org.


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