Fukushima studies show wildlife is doing nicely without humans, thank you very much

Biodiversity increasing, endangered species gradually returning despite radioactive terror pig presence

Studies of biodiversity around the former Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan have shown that a decade after the nuclear incident there in March 2011, the local wildlife, at least, is mostly thriving.

The incident at the Fukushima Daiichi site – in which three of the site's six reactors suffered meltdowns due to damage from an earthquake-induced tsunami – was one of only two events in history to be rated at level 7 on the International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale (the other being Chernobyl).

This scale is not related to the quantity of radioactive material released (although that was considerable), but by the number of people affected by the event. Following the incident, 154,000 people were evacuated from the area surrounding the plant due to the risk of radioactive contamination, a number second only to the 335,000 evacuated from the environs of the Chernobyl plant in 1986.

This removal of the human population has created a unique environment for wildlife, with nature having reclaimed the evacuated area, and with much of it now dominated by apparently indestructible radioactive boar/pig hybrids, as we noted back in July.

However, other species and ecosystems are also having a great time in the absence of humanity. Surveys have shown that along with the irascible porkers, rare and threatened species are returning to swamps and rice paddies in Fukushima prefecture, with biodiversity also surging on farmland in the area.

Evacuees from the Fukushima area have been reluctant to return to their former homes due to continuing concerns about radioactive contamination. And, presumably, the threat of being run off of their own property by the hellish razor-tusked intruders now squatting there.

The Asahi Shimbun notes that produce from Fukushima prefecture still receives a negative reaction from consumers due to the reputational fallout from the 2011 incident. A February survey by Japan's Consumer Affairs Agency found that 8.1 per cent of 5,000 respondents would hesitate to buy agricultural products from Fukushima due to continuing fears of radioactive contamination.

In reality, according to the government's own safety limits, no Fukushima rice has failed to pass the standards since 2015.

Unfortunately, 2015 also saw the arrival in Fukushima prefecture of another unwanted addition to the landscape: American Bullfrogs. This inexplicable, gormless invasive species, which has turned up in South America, Europe, China, South Korea and just about everywhere else it isn't wanted, has a voracious appetite, a prodigious reproduction rate and few predators in most of its adopted new homes.

A dedicated effort to eradicate this pest, combined with the reduction in the human population, seems to have led to an increase in waterborne biodiversity in the region since then. Children have also been drafted in to help with the biodiversity surveys and to teach them the importance of the natural world.

While the idea of introducing large numbers of children into vulnerable natural habitats and letting them crash around may be of questionable scientific value, the other bit seems to be striking a chord.

"I'm happy I found insects that I had never seen before," nine-year-old Hiroki Wake told The Asahi Shimbun. "I love aquatic bugs. I want to continue joining [the studies]." So there's one happy customer, at least.

Biodiversity was also found to have increased in agricultural areas. Fukushima Agricultural Technology Center and other bodies conducted surveys between 2018 and 2020 in 44 rice paddies in eight municipalities and found that 20 to 60 per cent of the rice paddies had high biodiversity in 2018, while those figures had increased to between 60 and 80 per cent in 2020. Counterintuitively, biodiversity actually increased in the year following the resumption of farming.

In order to help protect species returning to the region, 12 areas of wetlands and mudflats covering about 27 hectares were placed under protection, including nine areas in Fukushima prefecture.

"Prefectural and central government authorities thought about conservation in a flexible manner, and the important wetlands still remain as a result," said Takahide Kurosawa, a Fukushima University professor of plant taxonomy.

We have contacted Dr Kurosawa for further comment.

Perversely, given that one of the major reasons why ecosystems in the region have recovered has been the absence of human interference, one of the aims of the studies has been to show evacuees that it is safe to return.

"When word spreads that coastal areas and rice paddies in Fukushima are safe places where many rare creatures live, it should help overcome the negative reputation," Toshimasa Mitamura, a researcher at the Fukushima Agricultural Technology Center, told The Asahi Shimbun.

It is unclear if the environmental recovery in the area could withstand a full resumption of human activity. And it is unclear if resumed human activity could withstand the furious boar they will have to remove in order to get back into their homes. We'll see, eh? ®

Similar topics

Other stories you might like

  • Chip shortage forces temporary Raspberry Pi 4 price rise for the first time

    Ten-buck increase for 2GB model 'not here to stay' says Upton

    The price of a 2GB Raspberry Pi 4 single-board computer is going up $10, and its supply is expected to be capped at seven million devices this year due to the ongoing global chip shortage.

    Demand for components is outstripping manufacturing capacity at the moment; pre-pandemic, assembly lines were being red-lined as cloud giants and others snapped up parts fresh out of the fabs, and the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak really threw a spanner in the works, so to speak, exacerbating the situation.

    Everything from cars to smartphones have been affected by semiconductor supply constraints, including Raspberry Pis, it appears. Stock is especially tight for the Raspberry Pi Zero and the 2GB Raspberry Pi 4 models, we're told. As the semiconductor crunch shows no signs of letting up, the Raspberry Pi project is going to bump up the price for one particular model.

    Continue reading
  • Uncle Sam to clip wings of Pegasus-like spyware – sorry, 'intrusion software' – with proposed export controls

    Surveillance tech faces trade limits as America syncs policy with treaty obligations

    More than six years after proposing export restrictions on "intrusion software," the US Commerce Department's Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) has formulated a rule that it believes balances the latitude required to investigate cyber threats with the need to limit dangerous code.

    The BIS on Wednesday announced an interim final rule that defines when an export license will be required to distribute what is basically commercial spyware, in order to align US policy with the 1996 Wassenaar Arrangement, an international arms control regime.

    The rule [PDF] – which spans 65 pages – aims to prevent the distribution of surveillance tools, like NSO Group's Pegasus, to countries subject to arms controls, like China and Russia, while allowing legitimate security research and transactions to continue. Made available for public comment over the next 45 days, the rule is scheduled to be finalized in 90 days.

    Continue reading
  • Global IT spending to hit $4.5 trillion in 2022, says Gartner

    The future's bright, and expensive

    Corporate technology soothsayer Gartner is forecasting worldwide IT spending will hit $4.5tr in 2022, up 5.5 per cent from 2021.

    The strongest growth is set to come from enterprise software, which the analyst firm expects to increase by 11.5 per cent in 2022 to reach a global spending level of £670bn. Growth has fallen slightly, though. In 2021 it was 13.6 per cent for this market segment. The increase was driven by infrastructure software spending, which outpaced application software spending.

    The largest chunk of IT spending is set to remain communication services, which will reach £1.48tr next year, after modest growth of 2.1 per cent. The next largest category is IT services, which is set to grow by 8.9 per cent to reach $1.29tr over the next year, according to the analysts.

    Continue reading
  • Memory maker Micron moots $150bn mega manufacturing moneybag

    AI and 5G to fuel demand for new plants and R&D

    Chip giant Micron has announced a $150bn global investment plan designed to support manufacturing and research over the next decade.

    The memory maker said it would include expansion of its fabrication facilities to help meet demand.

    As well as chip shortages due to COVID-19 disruption, the $21bn-revenue company said it wanted to take advantage of the fact memory and storage accounts for around 30 per cent of the global semiconductor industry today.

    Continue reading
  • China to allow overseas investment in VPNs but Beijing keeps control of the generally discouraged tech

    Foreign ownership capped at 50%

    After years of restricting the use and ownership of VPNs, Beijing has agreed to let foreign entities hold up to a 50 per cent stake in domestic VPN companies.

    China has simultaneously a huge market and strict rules for VPNs as the country's Great Firewall attempts to keep its residents out of what it deems undesirable content and influence, such as Facebook or international news outlets.

    And while VPN technology is not illegal per se (it's just not practical for multinationals and other entities), users need a licence to operate one.

    Continue reading
  • Microsoft unveils Android apps for Windows 11 (for US users only)

    Windows Insiders get their hands on the Windows Subsystem for Android

    Microsoft has further teased the arrival of the Windows Subsystem for Android by detailing how the platform will work via a newly published document for Windows Insiders.

    The document, spotted by inveterate Microsoft prodder "WalkingCat" makes for interesting reading for developers keen to make their applications work in the Windows Subsystem for Android (WSA).

    WSA itself comprises the Android OS based on the Android Open Source Project 1.1 and, like the Windows Subsystem for Linux, runs in a virtual machine.

    Continue reading
  • Software Freedom Conservancy sues TV maker Vizio for GPL infringement

    Companies using GPL software should meet their obligations, lawsuit says

    The Software Freedom Conservancy (SFC), a non-profit which supports and defends free software, has taken legal action against Californian TV manufacturer Vizio Inc, claiming "repeated failures to fulfill even the basic requirements of the General Public License (GPL)."

    Member projects of the SFC include the Debian Copyright Aggregation Project, BusyBox, Git, GPL Compliance Project for Linux Developers, Homebrew, Mercurial, OpenWrt, phpMyAdmin, QEMU, Samba, Selenium, Wine, and many more.

    The GPL Compliance Project is described as "comprised of copyright holders in the kernel, Linux, who have contributed to Linux under its license, the GPLv2. These copyright holders have formally asked Conservancy to engage in compliance efforts for their copyrights in the Linux kernel."

    Continue reading
  • DRAM, it stacks up: SK hynix rolls out 819GB/s HBM3 tech

    Kit using the chips to appear next year at the earliest

    Korean DRAM fabber SK hynix has developed an HBM3 DRAM chip operating at 819GB/sec.

    HBM3 (High Bandwidth Memory 3) is a third generation of the HBM architecture which stacks DRAM chips one above another, connects them by vertical current-carrying holes called Through Silicon Vias (TSVs) to a base interposer board, via connecting micro-bumps, upon which is fastened a processor that accesses the data in the DRAM chip faster than it would through the traditional CPU socket interface.

    Seon-yong Cha, SK hynix's senior vice president for DRAM development, said: "Since its launch of the world's first HBM DRAM, SK hynix has succeeded in developing the industry's first HBM3 after leading the HBM2E market. We will continue our efforts to solidify our leadership in the premium memory market."

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2021