[ RadSafe ] Birds and radioactivity

Karen Street Karen_Street at sbcglobal.net
Tue Mar 6 07:52:26 CST 2012


I'll be interested if you learn more, and if the authors respond. Here is some added perspective—

Moeller has run into trouble before, according to a Scientific American blogger (http://www.scientificamerican.com/blog/post.cfm?id=scientific-meltdown-at-chernobyl-2009-03-24). And one of the participants in their Chernobyl study said that they ignored big variations from region to region in habitat. And Moeller manages to acquire boucoup data and write a lot, 30 articles in 2008. My guess is that all of his work is in fields where others are unlikely to run confirming experiments, because bird brain size is not of major interest to most researchers.

Science has a better track record and more respect in fields where people care a great deal about the numbers and check them extensively (physics and climate change), not so much in fields where a single person or group follows its bliss with no check from the greater community.

> When I saw this paper last week I first noted that the article mentioned that 14 bird species were common for Chernobyl and Fukushima. The article did not give the species names however. Instead they appear in an attached appendix (separate file).
> The appendix triggered my attention further because it was a long list of bird names in Latin. I decided to go through the list and see which the 14 species were. Numbers in parenthesis below = the number of observations, "neg" means negative slope = decline, I have here added the names in English:
> Acrocephaus arundinaceus (17, neg), great reed warbler
> Aegithalos caudatus (46), long-tailed tit
> Alauda arvensis (3), skylark
> Buteo buteo (10, neg), common buzzard
> Corvus corone (103, neg), carrion crow
> Delichon urbica (1), common house martin
> Garrulus glandarius (8), eurasian jay
> Hirundo rustica (144, neg), barn swallow
> Motacilla alba (8, neg), white wagtail
> Parus ater (17), coal tit
> Parus major (56), great tit
> Parus montanus (1), willow tit
> Passer montanus (294, neg), euroasian tree sparrow
> Troglodytes troglodytes (1), eurasian wren
> In other words, six "common" species which have a negative slope dominated by the following three: carrion crow, barn swallow and euroasian tree sparrow. Most of the 14 species above are quite common in northern Europe. In addition, a field sparrow, Emberiza cioides (Meadow Bunting or Siberian Meadow Bunting) and Cetthia cetti (Cettis warbler) showed a decline.
> The first three of these are clearly associated with humans to some extent. I would not be surprised if that also to some extent is true for the Emberiza species whereas I know nothing about the Cetthia except that it is a migratory bird.
> So I have a question here: If people are evacuated from some of these areas - doesn't that then also mean the the life conditions for these birds also change? I doubt that this has anything to do with radiation dose as the doses are far too small to be expected to affect bird behavior. The slope in Fig. 2 in the paper - I wrote one of the authors and asked about the units - it is log(abundance) as a function of log/microSv/hour). From a strict point, the unit should not be in microSv as the sievert only is defined for humans.
> Does RadSafer know anything about the behavior of the Cetthia species? Was it particularly cold in northern Japan last year or just "normal" (I'm thinking about the migratory pattern)? In addition, what does it mean for all these bird species that large areas were flooded?
> I do not have the background material with me at this moment of writing but if I recall correctly, all Parus species and the related Aegithalos caudatus showed an increase in numbers. It may also be commented that the buzzard partly is associated with humans (like waiting along highways etc looking for road kill - something they probably won't do when the car traffic ceases).
> My personal comment only,
> Bjorn Cedervall, Stockholm, Sweden
> --------------------------------------------------------------------------
>> From: Karen_Street at sbcglobal.net> 
>> The Economist has an article saying that more radioactivity, fewer birds, and the problem is twice as bad at Fukushima as Chernobyl.
>> http://www.economist.com/node/21548920?frsc=dg|a
>> One problem is that the reason they give at the end is so unlikely (different composition of radionuclides). Another is a question about who is doing the inventory at 35 µSv/hour locations, and how good the inventory is.

Best wishes, 
Karen Street
Friends Energy Project
blog http://pathsoflight.us/musing/index.php

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