Articles | Volume 10, issue 8
Research article
29 Aug 2013
Research article |  | 29 Aug 2013

Horizontal distribution of Fukushima-derived radiocesium in zooplankton in the northwestern Pacific Ocean

M. Kitamura, Y. Kumamoto, H. Kawakami, E. C. Cruz, and K. Fujikura

Abstract. The magnitude of the 9.0 Tohoku earthquake and the ensuing tsunami on 11 March 2011, inflicted heavy damage on the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant (FNPP1). Fission products were emitted, falling over a broad range in the Northern Hemisphere, and water contaminated with radionuclides leaked into the ocean. In this study, we described the horizontal distribution of the Fukushima-derived radiocesium in zooplankton and in seawater in the western North Pacific Ocean (500–2100 km from the FNPP1) 10 months after the accident. 134Cs and 137Cs were detected in zooplankton and seawater from all the stations. Because of its short half-life, the 134Cs detected in our samples could only be derived from the FNPP1 accident. The highest 137Cs activity in zooplankton was the same order of magnitude as it was one month after the accident, and average activity was one or two orders of magnitude higher than 137Cs activities observed before the accident around Japan. Horizontally, the radiocesium activity concentrations in zooplankton were high at around 25° N while those in surface seawater were high at around the transition area between the Kuroshio and the Oyashio currents (36–40° N). We observed subsurface radiocesium maxima in density range of the North Pacific Subtropical Mode Water and the occurrence of many diel vertical migratory zooplankton. These suggested that the high activity concentrations in the subtropical zooplankton at around 25° N were connected to the subsurface radiocesium and active vertical migration of zooplankton. However, the high activity concentrations of radiocesium in subsurface seawater did not necessarily correlate with the higher radiocesium activity in zooplankton. Activity concentrations of radiocesium in zooplankton might be influenced not only by the environmental radiocesium activity concentrations but also by other factors, which are still unknown.

Final-revised paper