Bikini Atoll, located in the Marshall Islands, was once used as a nuclear testing site by the United States. 70 years ago, a total of 23 bombs were dropped on this piece of land—including one bomb that was 1,000 times bigger than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima.
Today, the once-paradise island is blooming back to life. According to new research carried by a team of scientists from Stanford University, the site is teeming with an abundant ecosystem that includes a variety of plant and animal wildlife.
The island was once declared uninhabitable and all 167 of its residents had to be moved. Today, scientists are reporting car-sized corals, fish such as snapper and tuna, and crabs.
Their work was recently featured in a PBS show called Big Pacific, a natural history TV series.
Professor of marine science Steve Palumbi and his team have been studying the effects of radiation on marine life.
Their research led them to the conclusion that the flora and fauna of this Micronesian island are “remarkably resilient.”
This is in stark contrast with the health of the ecosystem found around Chernobyl, where the animals studied displayed deformities and mutations.
Professor Palumbi believes that the reason why the wildlife has fared so well is that they were left alone for such a long time. “In a strange way they are protected by the history of this place,” he told The Guardian.
Evidence shows that the corals began growing around 10 years after the nuclear testing ended. Palumbi calls the tests “the most destructive thing we have ever done to the ocean.”
Now, the team is trying to understand how exactly the flora and fauna survived the high radiation levels. They’re in the process of sequencing their DNA and calculating mutation patterns and rates.
“The fact there is life there and the life there is trying to come back from the most violent thing we’ve ever done to it is pretty hopeful,” Professor Palumbi told The Guardian.
On top of that, the research could help us understand our DNA and the way diseases develop in humans. ‘The terrible history of Bikini Atoll is an ironic setting for research that might help people live longer,’ Professor Palumbi said.