Abnormalities found in trees near Fukushima plant

A bit scary. From NHK:

Japan’s Environment Ministry has found abnormalities in fir trees near the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

The ministry has been observing about 80 species of wild animals and trees near the plant since 2011, when Japan suffered its worst nuclear accident.

At the request of the ministry, the National Institute of Radiological Sciences analyzed fir trees in areas where radiation levels are relatively high and published the results on Friday.

The results show that Japanese fir populations in the area showed a significantly increased number of morphological defects, including deletions of leader shoots of the main branch axis.
The study shows that 98 percent of fir trees in a 3.5-kilometer area from the damaged plant have defects. The radiation dose in the area is about 34 microsieverts per hour.

The results also show that 44 percent of fir trees have defects in an 8.5-kilometer zone with 20 microsieverts of radiation, and 27 percent in a 15-kilometer zone with 7 microsieverts of radiation.

The institute says the results indicate that radioactive materials emitted after the nuclear accident may have caused such morphological abnormalities.

The results have been also posted on the website of the British science magazine, Scientific Reports.

The institute’s Satoshi Yoshida says conifers such as fir trees are more susceptible to radiation.

But he said relations between such defects and radiation are still unclear and that further studies are necessary.

The Environment Ministry says no abnormality has so far been confirmed in other animals and trees.