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Why Haven't Chernobyl's Trees Turned to Sawdust?

Nearly 30 years after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, dead trees in the area that should have decayed to sawdust by now haven’t. Scientists who noticed the long-lasting stumps, fallen trees, and a buildup of dead leaves—which should normally break down into fine particles—found that leaf litter was two to three times thicker in regions where radiation was most intense, Smithsonian magazine reports. The findings, published this month in Oecologia, suggest that organisms in the area that break down plants and play a role in the decomposition process, like insects, microbes, and fungi, have died off from radiation exposure.

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