Bikini Atoll, a coral reef surrounding a central lagoon, is part of the Marshall Islands Archipelago in the central Pacific. From 1946 to 1958, the atoll was used for nuclear testing by the United States, destroying several of its originally 25 islands. Before testing started, the residents were relocated with the promise that this would be temporary. Even many decades later, the islands are still not habitable, owing to radio-nuclides have lives of 28-30 years. This would make the soil safe for return in 200 to 300 years, a time when climate change and rising water levels might already have extinguished the atoll permanently. But while life on the land might not be safe, the ocean seems to be surprisingly resilient—several recent investigations showed that, in the absence of further anthropogenic disturbances, corals have recolonized the atoll and marine life is thriving in the area.
Sources: Maragos, James, “Bikini Atoll, Marshall Islands”, Encyclopedia of Modern Coral Reefs: Structure, Form and Process, (2010): 123-134.
Richards, Zoe et al., “Bikini Atoll coral biodiversity resilience five decades after nuclear testing”, Marine Pollution Bulletin, vol. 56, issue. 3, (2008): 503-515.