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21 October 2019 Landscape changes at Chernobyl
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Thirty-three years ago, an accident at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant released huge amounts of radioactive materials like cesium, strontium and plutonium into the atmosphere, which spread over a vast area. It is known that its effects can cause damage do the DNA of living beings, leading to death or altered fitness of the biota, but the effects of land abandonment under such conditions are not, as the vicinities of the power plant were permanently evacuated. Thus, the objective of this study was to analyze the state of primary production of the vegetation in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone after the accident, comparing with its previous state. Through Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) and radiation measurements, the relationship between these variables was assessed using Analysis of Variance (ANOVA) and Generalized Additive Models (GAM), to understand how the vegetation responded to the radiation exposure. The data considered was Landsat satellite imagery and sampled areas registered on the field. The results show that the NDVI increased over the years after the accident and that it is independent of the current radiation measured. This suggests that to some level of radiation exposure, the positive effects of land abandonment and/or the negative effects of radiation on abundance of herbivore species surpass the long term negative effects of radiation exposure on the vegetation. Nonetheless, above some radiation threshold level, primary production is expected to be negatively affected.
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P. P. Santos, N. Sillero, Z. Boratyński, and A. C. Teodoro "Landscape changes at Chernobyl", Proc. SPIE 11149, Remote Sensing for Agriculture, Ecosystems, and Hydrology XXI, 111491X (21 October 2019);

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