Aquatic Plants and Animals in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone: Effects of Long-Term Radiation Exposure on Different Levels of Biological Organization

  • Dmitri GudkovEmail author
  • Natalia Shevtsova
  • Natalia Pomortseva
  • Elena Dzyubenko
  • Andrian Yavnyuk
  • Alexander Kaglyan
  • Alexander Nazarov


The effects of chronic irradiation on aquatic biota within the Chernobyl exclusion zone during 1998–2014 were studied. The absorbed dose rate for hydrobionts of the studied water bodies was registered in the range 1.3 mGy/year–3.4 Gy/year. It is determined that the rate of chromosomal aberrations in the roots of the helophyte plants of the most contaminated lakes and in the cells of the pond snail embryos is on average respectively 2–3 times and 4–6 times higher than the spontaneous mutagenesis level, inherent in aquatic organisms. Leukogram analysis of peripheral blood of fish showed a decrease in part of lymphocytes responsible for the implementation of immunological reactions. An increase was registered in the number of granulocytic elements (neutrophils and pseudoeosinophils), responsible for phagocytic function and involved in allergic and autoimmune reactions. Along with changes in leukograms, an increased level of morphological damages of erythrocytes (deformation of nucleus and cell membrane, nucleus and cytoplasm vacuolization, pyknosis and lysis of cells, forming of microcytes, schistocytes, double nucleus cells and micronuclei) was determined, which is generally for pray fish 4–12 times and for predatory fish 7–15 times higher than in the fish from reservoirs with background levels of radioactive contamination. Analysis of the viability of the seed progeny of the common reed at germination in the laboratory showed that in gradient of absorbed dose rate from 0.03 to 11.95 cGy/year for parental plants in lakes, there is a reduction in technical germination (from 93 to 60 %), germination energy (from 91 to 30 %) and seed viability (from 54 to 38 %). At the same time, the number of abnormalities of seed seedlings significantly increased: necrosis of roots (from 1.3 to 14.7 %); disturbance of gravitropism (from 2.6 to 17.0 %); damages of organogenesis (from 4 to 24 %) and disturbance of chlorophyll synthesis (up to 2 %).


Chernobyl exclusion zone (EZ) Water bodies Radioactive contamination Aquatic biota Dose rate Long-term radiation exposure Chromosomal aberrations Peripheral blood Leukogram Erythrocyte deformations 



This study was supported by the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine and by the State Agency of Ukraine on the Exclusion Zone Management. The authors are grateful to the personnel of the state specialized enterprises “Ecocentre” and the Chernobyl NPP for promoting research within the EZ.


  1. ERICA Assessment Tool 1.0 (Version November 2012) The integrated approach seeks to combine exposure/dose/effect assessment with risk characterisation and managerial considerations (
  2. Geras’kin SA, Fesenko SV, Alexakhin RM (2008) Effects of non-human species irradiation after the Chernobyl NPP accident. Environ Int 34:880–897CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  3. Gudkov DI, Kuzmenko MI, Derevets VV, Nazarov AB (2005) Aquatic ecosystems within the Chernobyl NPP exclusion zone: The latest data on radionuclide contamination and absorbed dose for hydrobionts. In: Brechignac F, Desmet G (eds) Equidosimetry—ecological standartization and equidosimetry for radioecology and environmental ecology, vol 2. Series C: Environmental Security, Springer, Dordrecht, pp 333–342Google Scholar
  4. Gudkov DI, Uzhevskaya CF, Nazarov AB, Kolodochka LA, Dyachenko TN, Shevtsova NL (2006) Lesion in common reed by gall-producing arthropods in water bodies of the Chernobyl NPP exclusion zone. Hydrobiol J 42(1):82–88CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Hinton TG, Alexakhin R, Balonov M et al (2007) Radiation-induced effects on plants and animals: Findings of the United Nations Chernobyl Forum. Health Phys 93:427–440CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  6. IAEA (2006) Environmental consequences of the Chernobyl accident and their remediation: Twenty years of experience. Report of the UN Chernobyl Forum Expert Group “Environment” (EGE). IAEA, ViennaGoogle Scholar
  7. Ivanova NT (1983) Atlas of the fish blood cells. Moscow (Russian)Google Scholar
  8. Kalinina MV (2002) Feature of young chum salmon blood as indicator of water bodies contamination by heavy metals. In: Proceedings of International Conference on “New technologies for the protection of biodiversity in aquatic ecosystems”, Moscow, 123 (Russian), 27–29 May 2002Google Scholar
  9. Lugas’kova NV (2003) Species specific of cytogenetic stability of fish in condition of eutrophic water body. Ecology 3:235–240 (Russian)Google Scholar
  10. Moller AP, Mousseau TA (2006) Biological consequences of Chernobyl: 20 years on. Trends Ecol Evol 21:200–207CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  11. Pausheva ZP (1974) Practical work on cytology of plants. Kolos, Moscow (Russian)Google Scholar
  12. Shevtsova NL, Gudkov DI, Stoyko YA, Syvak EV (2005) To the method of determination of chromosome damages of higher aquatic plants at the example of common reed and arrowhead. Sc Acta of the Ternopil State Teacher’s Training Univ 26(3):478–479 (Russian)Google Scholar
  13. Sokolov VE, Ryabov IN, Ryabtsev IA et al (1993) Ecological and genetic consequences of the Chernobyl atomic power plant accident. Vegetation 109:91–99CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Tsytsugina VG (1998) An indicator of radiation effects in natural populations of aquatic organisms. Radiat Protect Dosim 75(1–4):171–173CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. UNSCEAR (1996) Report to the general assembly. United Nations, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  16. Zhyteneva LD, Poltavtseva TG, Rubnitskaya OA (1989) Atlas of the normal and pathological changes of the fish blood cells. Rostov-na-Donu (Russian)Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Dmitri Gudkov
    • 1
    Email author
  • Natalia Shevtsova
    • 1
  • Natalia Pomortseva
    • 1
  • Elena Dzyubenko
    • 2
  • Andrian Yavnyuk
    • 3
  • Alexander Kaglyan
    • 1
  • Alexander Nazarov
    • 4
  1. 1.Institute of HydrobiologyKievUkraine
  2. 2.G. Skovoroda State Teacher Training UniversityPereyaslav-KhmelnitskyUkraine
  3. 3.National Aviation UniversityKievUkraine
  4. 4.State Specialized Enterprise EcocentreChernobylUkraine

Personalised recommendations