"Nearly 30 years have passed since the Chernobyl plant exploded and caused an unprecedented nuclear disaster. The effects of that catastrophe, however, are still felt today. Although no people live in the extensive exclusion zones around the epicenter, animals and plants still show signs of radiation poisoning.
Birds around Chernobyl have significantly smaller brains that those living in non-radiation poisoned areas; trees there grow slower; and fewer spiders and insects including bees, butterflies and grasshoppers—live there...
In the areas with no radiation, 70 to 90 percent of the leaves were gone after a year. But in places where more radiation was present, the leaves retained around 60 percent of their original weight..." supporting the idea of delayed decay.
The researchers worry that not only are these nutrients not being properly recycled, causing trees to grow more slowly, but the lack of decomposition is causing the forest litter to pile up and become a fire hazard. Fire can not only destroy the forests further, but can also spread the radioactive contamination now present to other, potentially uncontaminated areas. Smithsonian.com
Animals and plants show impacts of radiation after the Three Mile Island nuclear disaster in the US and the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan. The researchers are collaborating with investigators in Japan to determine if improper decay is occurring because of the Fukushima disaster.