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Untangling radiocesium dynamics of forest-stream ecosystems: A review of Fukushima studies in the decade after the accident via Environmental Pollution rights and content


•Various material flows in forest-stream ecosystems cause radiocesium migrations.

•Studies in forest-stream ecosystems after the Fukushima accident were reviewed.

•Radiocesium accumulates in organic forest soils and depositional stream environments.

•Integrating biotic and abiotic processes are essential for contamination management.


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.

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