Radiation Ecology

I L Brisbin Jr. and C E Dallas, University of Georgia, Athens, GA, USA © 2008 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

Effects of Radioactive Contaminants The Rise, Fall, and Future Needs for Radioecology

Fates and Movements of Radioactive Contaminants in Further Reading the Environment

Radiation ecology (henceforth 'radioecology') is a hybrid science derived from the principles of both radiation biology and ecology. The field was born in the 1940s and the 1950s following the testing and deployment of nuclear weapons and the consequential concern for the fate and effects of radioactive materials in the environment. The initial emphasis was on radiation effects. As the field of ecology grew and began to increase our understanding of food webs and the natural processes which control the movements of chemical elements in the environment, concern then developed for both short-and long-term movements of radioactive contaminants in natural populations, communities, and ecosystems, as well as in individual organisms. Radioecology has played a pivotal role in promoting better understanding of many basic ecological cycling processes through studies of radioactive tracers that were either deliberately introduced into natural food chains, soil, or water, or were incidentally released at sites of nuclear weapons testing, nuclear accidents, or warfare detonations. In a sense radioecology may be considered to be a subdiscipline of the broader field of environmental toxicology, which is concerned with the fate and effects of all forms of environmental contaminants. Radioecology draws extensively from the findings of this field of study and applies them to the specific case of contaminants that emit alpha, beta, or gamma radiation.

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