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Title: The effects of chronic low-dose radiation on bumblebees
Author: Raines, Katherine Elizabeth
ISNI:       0000 0004 7657 0675
Awarding Body: University of Stirling
Current Institution: University of Stirling
Date of Award: 2018
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The consequences to wildlife of living in contaminated areas with chronic low-dose rates of radiation are still relatively unknown. Laboratory studies using acute radiation have demonstrated that invertebrates are relatively radioresistant compared to other taxa. However, there is little scientific evidence to show how chronic low dose rates affect invertebrates. This is problematic for understanding the consequences to wildlife living in highly contaminated areas and also testing assumptions made for invertebrates by the International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP). This thesis was designed to address a number of recommendations have been suggested to improve radioecological studies and help reduce the uncertainty as to effects at low dose rates. These include environmentally relevant laboratory studies (Chapters 2 and 4), improved dosimetry and dose assessments (Chapter 3), investgating confounding factors (Chapter 4) and continuity between laboratory experiments and field work conducted in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone (CEZ) (Chapter4). Chapter 2 presents an environmentally-relevant experiment testing how bumblebee reproduction and life history is affected by chronic low-dose rates. Unexpectedly, at dose rates equivalent to the CEZ, queen production declined and reproductive timing was altered. The estimation of dose rates to establish a dose-effect relationship for wild animals is difficult and a common criticism of radioecological studies, therefore, Chapter 3 tests whether the common approach to measuring only external ambient dose rates is suitable and whether the inclusion of life-history traits significantly alters the dose rate. The findings from this chapter reiterate the necessity to use dose-assessment tools to test different parameters to estimate dose rate in different scenarios to account for unknown variation. Chapter 4 demonstrates that in areas of elevated dose rates in the CEZ parasite burden was higher and bumblebees did not live as long. These results were reinforced by a laboratory study, which determined bumblebees exposed to increased radiation doses had high parasite burdens and were infected quicker, resulting in reduced longevity. The data in this thesis detected effects below the current dose bands used in international radioprotection and therefore advocate these dose bands be re-evaluated. However, the data do not support studies which have measured adverse effects at dose rates similar to background and suggest that confounding factors such as habitat quality and co-stressors need to be included in field and laboratory studies.
Supervisor: Copplestone, David ; Tinsley, Matthew Sponsor: NERC ; Environment Agency ; Radioactive Waste Management Ltd
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Bumblebees ; radiation ; Chernobyl ; Effects ; Bumblebees--Radiation Effects ; Bumblebees--Conservation ; Bumblebees--Ecology ; Wildlife habitat improvement ; Chernobyl Nuclear Accident, Chornobyl', Ukraine, 1986