Workshop 6&7

Workshop 6 & 7

Tuesday 27th August & Wednesday 28th August

Key Question to be addressed: Since an ecosystem approach is better suited to fulfil goals of environmental radiation protection, what is preventing its development?



This is the fifth in series of international workshops sponsored by the International Union of Radioecologists (IUR) bridging radiobiology and radioecology. It stems from the initial consensus recognition that ecosystem approaches are better suited to fulfil environmental radiation protection goals (consensus statements from Miami consensus Symposium, 2015; see Bréchignac et al. 2016) .

The format will be structured around three main statements, each with 3-4 defined sub statements or questions designed to stimulate discussion around the issue of the development of an ecosystem approach in radiation protection:


Broad statements which may be impeding development

  1. Radiation is not a problem in the environment (why develop a system if we do not see immediate big effects) Big effects may appear much later (cf. The biodiversty decline that is going on, or cf. an eutrophication process in a lake…)
  1. Not all change is bad, but no change may not indicate that nothing bad is going on. Focus on detection of negative effects can miss the detection of adaptive and protective effects operating at the ecosystem level . Some changes at system level might be misinterpreted. for example, a population density that rises (like a pullulation) may be interpreted as a positive ecosystem level effect when it actually results from the eradication of the predator partner, signaling a decline of ecosystem health.
  2. Mechanistic studies need also to be system and field based to be useful (field v lab studies reveal discrepancies)

The expected output will be a joint paper and a plan to establish a working group within IUR and/or IAEA   possibly within a successor to the MODARIA project, to plan coordinated multi-group experiments and produce reports.

A key focus at this workshop will be not only to reach areas of agreement, but also to better understand areas where consensus may not be reached– to understand what we disagree on and why, what the knowledge gaps are, as well as what could be done – what studies/experiments are needed.

The workshop will be embedded within the ICRR meeting as part of the Environmental stream. It will be preceded on the Tuesday morning by a radioecology session planned by Deborah Oughton and will continue into Wednesday. After the workshop the second formal environment symposium will take place organised by Carmel Mothersill.   A dinner will be organised for Tuesday evening.


Workshop plan

Ist afternoon – discussion centred around “inflammatory statements” and difficult questions – intended to identify main areas of consensus and disensus. A “debate’ style approach is planned with opening statements by two delegates with opposing views.

2nd morning – drawing on previous discussions – what can and should be done in practice (protocol, hypothesis, experimental design)


Statements and Questions

  1. Radiation is not a problem in the environment

    • “Nature” in Chernobyl and Fukushima doing just fine; Ecologists cause more damage to Chernobyl wildlife than radioactivity
    • Changes seen in Chernobyl and Fukushima suggest that environmental risks of radiation are underestimated
    • Assessments of the impact of radiation on ecosystem stability should be based on the assumption of a “threshold” for ecological effects (that would possibly embed an accumulated stress hypothesis).
  2. Not all change is bad, but no change may not indicate that nothing bad is going on
    • The ecosystem is so complex that an ecosystem approach is doomed to fail/inappropriate i.e. Is the complexity, that an ecosystem approach entails a good enough argument to refrain from conducting the necessary research?
    • The adverse outcome pathway approach (AOP) should be replaced by a modified outcome pathway approach (MOP) ) – to consider beneficial outcomes for biota or adaptive responses and adaptive evolution resulting from exposure to low doses of radiation and other stressors.
    • The multiple stressor issue means that laboratory based experiments designed around 1 or 2 stressors at a time) are broadly useless
  3. Mechanistic studies need also to be system and field based to be useful
    • Neural, immune and humoral systemic responses determine outcome after low dose exposures
    • DNA is a relatively unimportant target at low/chronic exposures in the environment
    • Radioadaptive response contributing to population level survival is a crucial mechanism for exposed biota
    • The role of non-targeted effects is underestimated in the environment.