The most recent project “Radioökologische Evaluierung der Radionuklidkontamination in Waldökosystemen 30 Jahre nach Tschernobyl” (Radioecological Evaluation of the Radionucleid Exposure of Woodland Ecosystems 30 Years After the Chernobyl Disaster) commissioned by the Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, Environment and Water Management (BMLFUW) and carried out by AGES and the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences Vienna (BOKU) examined the long-term effects of the Chernobyl disaster on large forests in Austria (Kobernausser Forest, Dunkelsteiner Forest, Weinsberger Forest) and Bavaria. These woodlands were chosen because their soil is largely untouched and the animals feed naturally and receive no significant amounts of additional food. About 40 wild boar, 15 berry, 11 mushroom and 104 soil samples, as well as 104 vegetation samples (e.g. moss, ferns) were tested for Caesium 137.
The results show that considerable Caesium 137 concentrations can still be found in woodland ecosystems even 30 years after Chernobyl. The isotope is still concentrated in the top soil layers. While only one sample of each berry and mushroom specimen examined exceeded the maximum limit of 600 Bq/Kg slightly, wild boar meat can still exceed the limit sevenfold (maximum value measured was 4710 Bq/Kg). Additionally, almost all of the wild boar samples (15 out of 16) exceeded the limit due to the high concentration levels in the soil of the Austrian woodlands selected. Both the highest and the lowest Caesium 137 values found in wild boar in Austria during this project came from the same forest (Dunkelsteiner Forest). This clearly shows that the animals’ feeding behaviour also plays an important role, in addition to the Caesium 137 levels in forest soil itself. Only one sample taken from berries and mushrooms exceeded the limit of 600 Bq/Kg.
Special Focus Examinations 2008
The project “A Survey of the Radioactive Exposure in Game” was carried out in 2007 and 2008, commissioned by the Austrian Federal Ministry for Health. The project examined samples of game from its natural habitat. Unlike the animals in game holdings, these were not fed by humans. The project has already yielded valuable data on increased Cs-137 concentration levels in game from specific regions.
A total of 490 specimens (43 chamois, 14 mouflon, 217 roe deer, 107 red deer, 7 sika deer, 79 wild boars, 1 pheasant, 16 wild hares, 1 ibex and 5 wild rabbits) were examined and the maximum level of 5,800 Bq/Kg was found in a wild boar. The caesium levels of 8 wild boar and 11 roe deer samples exceeded the limit out of the 490 specimens, while 96 % of the samples were below the maximum level -- the majority of which were significantly below the limit.