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    MOSCOW, April 23 (Dmitry Krivolutsky, corresponding member of the Russian Academy of Sciences, active member of the International Union of Radioecologists - RIA Novosti) - The scientific group I head fulfilled classic work of a great value 18 years ago. After the explosion at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, we detected an environmental disaster in the soil, for the first time in history. The main indicator of the live and sound soil is variety of its microfauna. After the radiation emission in Chernobyl, microfauna reduced by 97%.

    The factor of contamination still remains, though the surface is gradually being cleansed due to radioactive decay, due to rains, with the help of which radioactive elements penetrate deeper into the ground. The restoration process of the soil microfauna is going on due to the increase of the number of specimens, whose variety of species is still scarce, which testifies to nature's unhealthy condition. For comparison's sake, I will cite an ecologically favorable example: a Moscow region forest has about 100,000 specimens of over 100 species for one square meter.

    For more than one year, we have been making tests with the help of a simple and convenient indicator - testaceous (soil) ticks. In conditions of an environmental crisis, the structure of superorganisms of this species of microfauna gets simplified, its variety gets scarcer, which is a faultless indicator of the soil condition. My scientific interest in testaceous ticks has a 35-year-long history. I want to emphasize that these ticks are a special species, they are not harmful to man, they live in the upper layer of soil, and feed on plant remains. They are valuable for an ecologist by the variety of populations and species. In Russia, there are 1,300 species of testaceous ticks, with 1,100 of them discovered by my small scientific team. We were awarded with the State Award for replenishment of biological variety in Soviet times. In 1996, we received an award of the Russian government for the proposed method of bioindication of radiological contamination with the help of testaceous ticks.

    We first used this method in 1968, in the Urals, near Chelyabinsk. 11 years before, a disaster with a radiation emission hit that region. The tragedy happened at the Mayak enterprise, where used nuclear fuel is disposed of. People were immediately moved to other places. Soils in the area of the disaster were put out of economic use. For the 47 years that have passed since, the area of contamination has reduced a lot, the microflora shows that active reanimation of the territory is underway - the testaceous ticks testify to that.

    Unfortunately, in the beginning of the nuclear era no one cared about the rules and norms of protecting the environment. Americans and Englishmen behaved just as irresponsibly as Russians. Americans dropped their nuclear dirt to the Gulf of Mexico, Englishmen - in the Irish Sea. Then, all this was distributed along the shores of Europe - on the whole, the same amount of radio nuclides as was emitted from the Chernobyl nuclear power plant settled on them.

    Nevertheless, nuclear contamination is the most innocent of all kinds of anthropogenic contaminations, besides, it is constantly monitored. Emissions into the atmosphere of coal, fuel oil, gasoline use products are way more dangerous to the environment.

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