For many years, the public and scientists argued over the creation of a protected area around the Chernobyl exclusion zone. Some claimed that this idea was a progressive future for the entire Polesie region, while others saw this as a utopian undertaking. The truth was on the side of the first.
First, in 2007, a general zoological reserve of national importance was created not without their help and perseverance. Later, in 2016, the Decree “On the establishment of the Chernobyl Radiation-Ecological Biosphere Reserve” was finally signed, having gone through all the steps of bureaucratic delays, after numerous approvals and hearings.
The obvious need for its creation appeared a few years after the Chernobyl accident – it was then that scientific researchers began to record the gradual recreation of the plant and animal world. This was facilitated by the almost complete absence of the human factor in the resettled territories. All economic activity was stopped, nature was given a chance for self-healing.
And this took advantage of it – the fact of an increase in the number of some species of the animal kingdom that had previously been massively distributed in the Chernobyl forest zone became apparent. This pleasantly surprised the entire scientific world and inspired hope that the landscape of the whole Polessky complex, which suffered from the Chernobyl accident, soon awaits the same picture. Since then, the forecast for the future Chernobyl Exclusion Zone has begun to take on a more favorable spin.
Already ten years after the accident at the nuclear power plant, it became clear that nature is much more powerful than even such a terrible technological disaster on earth as the Chernobyl accident. Hundreds of thousands of hectares of land, as well as the exclusion zone itself, formed as a result of the resettlement of people, have become protected, hundreds of animal species, including rare ones listed in the Red Book, have found refuge and comfortable conditions for breeding.
What is happening in Chernobyl today?
The Reserve is actively developing today as an independent structure in the field of managing the state agency of Ukraine for managing the Exclusion Zone. Its representatives are regular participants in various projects to study the flora and fauna of not only the territory of the exclusion zone, but also of a number of international expeditions. In addition, the largest reserve in Ukraine created within the borders of the 30 km exclusion zone is the foundation for unique natural experiments by scientists from around the world.
Its core is the reserve itself and the northern forest. The ecological corridor of the reserve is the link between the Drevlyansky and Polessky nature reserves, as well as the Mezhrechinsky landscape park and the state radiation-ecological reserve of the Republic of Belarus.
According to the latest estimates of scientists, there are about 400 species of animals and fish in the Reserve, a number of them are Red Book. 60 of about 1300 plant species are rare and are subject to environmental protection. The main attention of scientists is focused on the study of rare animal species – predators and ungulates.
The population of brown bear, lynx, wolves, as well as deer, roe deer and elk has recently increased several times. In addition, the unprecedented interest of scientists and most visitors to the exclusion zone is associated with the free population of Przhevalsky horses, which were artificially recreated back in the mid-90s of the last century. Today it is one of the most massive populations of this type of horse.
What is waiting for Chernobyl tomorrow?
This difference from other objects of the nature reserve fund of Ukraine, Chernobyl, will fulfill the role of not only preserving local biodiversity, but will also become the main foundation of the “open-air laboratory”, which today is the Chernobyl exclusion zone itself. In accordance with this, three main areas have already been identified in which the Reserve will develop in the future.
- The first is environmental; its task is to preserve in natural form the typical natural complexes of Polesie, the diversity of landscapes, the gene pool of the animal and plant world. In turn, this will provide support for the general ecological balance, increase the barrier functions of the exclusion zone and the zone of compulsory resettlement, and will serve to stabilize the hydrological regime and rehabilitate the territory contaminated with radionuclides.
- The second is scientific and experimental; its task is environmental monitoring of the environment, an inventory of flora and fauna, the entire ecosystem as a whole. This is necessary in order to conduct a chronicle of nature as part of scientific experiments, develop scientific recommendations on the conservation and revival of rare species of animals and plants, and update natural ecosystems. In turn, this will be the basis for the preparation of scientific materials and recommendations necessary for the implementation of environmental public educational work, as well as other types of functioning of the Reserve.
- The third is informational and educational; its task is to disseminate information and raise awareness of the values of the biological and landscape diversity of the Reserve, the formation of environmental awareness and the development of respect for nature.
It breathes differently in the Reserve, even the roads seem enchanted and lulled by silence, all because a person’s foot steps on them extremely rarely. Getting into these expanses and picturesque landscapes, you catch yourself thinking that you never get bored here. It is impossible to peer into the dark eyes of rivers, not to take your eyes off the leisurely flight of birds. My heart skips a beat from the expectation that at any moment a quick roe deer, a horned moose, or Przhevalsky’s dark-maned horses will slip past you or somewhere among the trees.
And most importantly, if nature finds a place where it can be itself, then there are no boundaries of its beauty, strength and versatility. The creation of such conditions for the restoration of the territory affected by the Chernobyl accident is the main mission of mankind.