The missing corals are fragile lagoonal specialists slender branching or leafy forms that you only find in the sheltered waters of a lagoon, Zoe explains. While corals in general have shown resilience, Zoe adds that the coral biodiversity at Bikini Atoll has proven only partially resilient to the disturbances that have occurred there.
Maria Beger from the Commonwealth Research Facility for Applied Environmental Decision Analysis at The University of Queensland took a Geiger counter with her on the expedition.
The ambient gamma radiation the residential island of Bikini atoll was fairly low pretty much like the background radiation in an Australian city. However when I put the Geiger counter near a coconut, which accumulates radioactive material from the soil, it went berserk, Maria remembers.
Extensive decontamination works have been carried out at Bikini atoll making it safe to visit, however local produce is unsafe to eat, and it is unlikely the Bikinian people will return to live on Bikini Atoll in the near future.
The coral survey was carried out at the request of the atolls local government. For comparison the team also dived on neighbouring Rongelap Atoll, where no atomic tests were carried out directly although the atoll was contaminated by radioactive ash from the Bravo Bomb and local inhabitants were also evacuated and for the most part, have not returned. The marine environment at this Atoll was found to be in a pristine condition.
The team thinks that Rongelap Atoll is potentially seeding Bikinis recovery, because it is the second largest atoll in the world with a huge amount of coral reef diversity and biomass and lies upstream from Bikini.
Zoe says that ironically, thanks to t
|Contact: Zoe Richards|
ARC Centre of Excellence in Coral Reef Studies