Chernobyl has become synonymous with disaster. The 1986 nuclear disaster, which the whole world spoke about again, thanks to the HBO series, caused thousands of cancers, turned the once densely populated area into a ghost town and led to the creation of an exclusion zone of 2,600 square kilometers. But the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone is alive. Wolves, wild boars and bears returned to the lush forests surrounding the old nuclear power plant.
As for the vegetation, then all of it, exceptthe most vulnerable and exposed to radiation of plants, never died and even in the most radioactive zones was restored within three years. People, other mammals and birds would have died long ago from radiation, which irradiated plants in the most polluted areas. So why is plant life so resistant to radiation and a nuclear catastrophe?
What happened to the plants in Chernobyl?
To answer this question, we firstit is necessary to understand how the radiation of nuclear reactors affects living cells. Chernobyl radioactive material is “unstable” because it constantly emits high-energy particles and waves that destroy cellular structures or produce chemically active substances that attack the cellular mechanism.
Most cell parts can be replaced in the case ofdamage, but DNA is an important exception. At high doses, DNA becomes a bat and the cells die quickly. Low doses can lead to less damage in terms of mutations that alter cell functions — for example, make them carcinogenic, uncontrollably reproduce and invade other parts of the body.
In animals, this often leads to death.outcome, because their cells and systems are especially specialized and not particularly flexible. Imagine animal biology as a complex machine in which each cell and organ has its own place and purpose, and all parts must work and interact together in order for the individual to live. A person cannot live without a brain, lungs or heart.
But plants develop much more flexibly andorganically. Since they cannot move, they have no choice but to adapt to the circumstances in which they find themselves. Instead of having a specific structure, like an animal, plants create it as it develops. The roots are grown longer or stems higher - it depends on the balance of chemical signals from other parts of the plant and the “woody internet”, as well as light, temperature, water and nutritional conditions.
It is imperative that unlike animal cellsalmost all plant cells are able to create new cells of any type that a plant needs. That is why a gardener can grow a new plant from a cutting, while the roots will sprout from what was once a stem or leaf.
All this means that plants can replace dead cells or tissues much more easily than animals, regardless of whether they are damaged as a result of an animal attack or radiation.
And although radiation and other types of DNA damagecan cause tumors in plants, mutated cells, as a rule, are not able to move from one part of the plant to another, as in the cancer process, due to the rigid connecting walls surrounding the plant cells. Such "tumors" will not be fatal in the overwhelming majority of cases, because the plant will find a way to work without faulty tissue.
What is remarkable, in addition to this innateradiation resistance, some plants in the Chernobyl exclusion zone seem to use additional mechanisms to protect their DNA, change the chemical composition to make it more resistant to damage, and turn on the system to restore it if it does not work. The level of natural radiation on the surface of the Earth was much higher in the distant past when the first plants developed, therefore plants in the exclusion zone can apply these ancient defense mechanisms.
Now life around Chernobyl is flourishing. A variety of plants and animals, probably even higher than it was before the disaster. In a sense, the Chernobyl disaster became a paradise on earth: expelling ourselves from this area, we freed up space for the return of nature.
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