澳洲研究委員會（ARC，Australian Research Council）珊瑚礁研究卓越中心（Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies）及詹姆士庫克大學（James Cook University）的芮查斯（Zoe Richards）表示：「我當時不知道要期待什麼，可能是某種月球表面吧！然而它的狀況卻是令人無法置信的，大片高達8公尺高枝枒分歧的微孔珊瑚（Porites coral）已經建立起來了，創造了繁茂的珊瑚礁棲地。我很驚喜其他各處環礁淺水瀉湖的珊瑚礁覆蓋率高達80％，而且珊瑚礁已形成樹狀分枝以及30公分厚的枝幹」。她指出：「這真是太好了！我從來沒見過馬紹爾群島外面有珊瑚長成樹叢狀。」
Fifty years after the last atomic blast shook the Pacific atoll of Bikini, the corals are flourishing again, new research shows, although divers found that some coral species appear to be locally extinct.
The coral survey was carried out at the request of the atoll's local government.
An international team of scientists from Australia, Germany, Italy, Hawaii and the Marshall Islands examined the diversity and abundance of marine life around the atoll.
They dove into the vast Bravo Crater left in 1954 by the most powerful American atom bomb ever exploded. At 15 megatonnes of TNT it was 1,000 times more powerful than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima that ended World War II.
The Bravo bomb vaporized three islands, raised water temperatures to 55,000 degrees, shook islands 200 kilometers away and left a crater two kilometers wide and 73 meters deep.
"I didn't know what to expect - some kind of moonscape perhaps," said Zoe Richards of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies and James Cook University. "But it was incredible, huge matrices of branching Porites coral up to eight meters high had established, creating thriving coral reef habitat."
"Throughout other parts of the lagoon it was awesome to see coral cover as high as 80 percent and large tree-like branching coral formations with trunks 30cm thick," she said. "It was fascinating - I've never seen corals growing like trees outside of the Marshall Islands."
But the team documented a high level of loss of coral species from the atoll. Compared with a famous study made before the atomic tests were carried out, the team established that 42 species were missing compared to the early 1950s.
At least 28 of these species losses appear to be genuine local extinctions probably due to the 23 bombs that were exploded there from 1946 to 1958, or the resulting radioactivity, increased nutrient levels and smothering from fine sediments.
"The missing corals are fragile lagoonal specialists, slender branching or leafy forms that you only find in the sheltered waters of a lagoon,” Richards explains.
While corals in general have shown resilience, she says the coral biodiversity at Bikini Atoll has proven only partially resilient to the disturbances that have occurred there.