Untangling radiocesium dynamics of forest-stream ecosystems: A review of Fukushima studies in the decade after the accident

Environ Pollut. 2021 Nov 1;288:117744. doi: 10.1016/j.envpol.2021.117744. Epub 2021 Jul 6.


Forest-stream ecosystems are widespread and biodiverse terrestrial landscapes with physical and social connections to downstream human activities. After radiocesium is introduced into these ecosystems, various material flows cause its accumulation or dispersal. We review studies conducted in the decade after the Fukushima nuclear accident to clarify the mechanisms of radiocesium transfer within ecosystems and to downstream areas through biological, hydrological, and geomorphological processes. After its introduction, radiocesium is heavily deposited in the organic soil layer, leading to persistent circulation due to biological activities in soils. Some radiocesium in soils, litter, and organisms is transported to stream ecosystems, forming contamination spots in depositional habitats. While reservoir dams function as effective traps, radiocesium leaching from sediments is a continual phenomenon causing re-contamination downstream. Integration of data regarding radiocesium dynamics and contamination sites, as proposed here, is essential for contamination management in societies depending on nuclear power to address the climate crisis.

Keywords: Cesium; Ecology; Food webs; Rivers; Watersheds.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cesium Radioisotopes / analysis
  • Ecosystem
  • Forests
  • Fukushima Nuclear Accident*
  • Humans
  • Radiation Monitoring*


  • Cesium Radioisotopes