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Destruction of Ukraine’s Kakhovka Dam Has Decimated Wildlife

The destruction of the Kakhovka dam in southern Ukraine has decimated riparian wildlife, according to a Ukrainian conservation group.

The Kakhovka dam, which straddles Russian- and Ukrainian-held territorities, was destroyed Tuesday, with each country blaming the other for the attack. The breach let loose a cascade of floodwater from the massive Kahovka reservoir, a waterbody the size of Utah’s Great Salt Lake, draining the reservoir and flooding areas downstream.

A report from the Ukrainian Nature Conservation Group finds that “the vast majority of all living organisms that inhabited the Kahovka reservoir have already perished or will perish in the coming days.”

Most reservoir fish will be carried out to sea, where they will die in the saltwater, the report said, while almost all fish fry will be left stranded in shallow areas around the reservoir. The reservoir is home to 43 fish species, and report authors estimate that it will take at least seven years for fish populations to recover.

At the same time, the report said, flooding downstream is wiping out wildlife along the Dnipro River, including sand lizards, steppe adders, yellow-bellied grass snakes, and Nordmann’s mice. Floodwaters have inundated nearly all known sites of the rare ant species Liometopum affine, as well as critical nesting areas for waterfowl, including herons, egrets, coots, ducks, and waterhens. That report estimates that it will take at least three years for bird populations to recover.

The downstream flooding will also carry pollutants from septic tanks, gas stations, and industrial sites into the Black Sea, according to the report. Runoff from farmland, “combined with hot summer conditions can trigger the proliferation of microorganisms and algae, leading to water blooms with all the negative consequences associated with this phenomenon.”

ALSO ON YALE E360

Collateral Damage: The Environmental Cost of the Ukraine War

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