Coral mounts a comeback

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Despite the vaporization of three islands, virtual destruction of marine life and a huge crater 240 feet deep to show for it, the coral reefs are slowly beginning to heal themselves from the Bravo Bomb launched in 1954 on the Bikini Atoll in the Pacific Ocean, according to the ARC Centre of Excellence of Coral Reef Studies in Australia.

The crater of the first test of a practical hydrogen bomb — the most powerful explosion ever set off by the United States, roughly a thousand times more powerful than the Hiroshima bomb — is now lined with branching Porites coral up to 26 feet in height, according to the report.

“The healthy condition of the coral at Bikini atoll today is proof of their resilience and ability to bounce back from massive disturbances,” said Zoe Richards, of the ARC Centre, in the report. “That is, if the reef is left undisturbed and there are healthy nearby reefs to source the recovery.”

However, there are 42 species of coral that are still missing from the area that existed prior to the early 1950s. ARC experts believe 28 are extinct because of the 23 bombs exploded in the area between 1946 and 1958, according to report.

The source of this regeneration of coral seems to be coming from the marine life of the neighboring Rongelap Atoll where no atomic tests were carried out directly, although it was contaminated by radioactive ash from the Bravo bomb. It is the second largest atoll in the world with a large amount of coral reef biodiversity.

For information on this ongoing study, visit www.coralcoe.org.au

— Elizabeth Ellis