Planet Ark News

New Coral Reef Rewrites Textbooks

Date: 02-Mar-17
Author: Laura Chalk

Image Credit: Greenpeace © Claire Bell

Image Credit: Greenpeace

Beneath the Amazonian Flume – the place where the Amazon River spills out into the Atlantic Ocean in a swirl of sediment – there lies a hidden, deep and vast coral reef. The oceanographers who discovered this modern day Atlantis using a dredging system were flabbergasted at the find.

The reef’s very existence is surprising to researchers, lying as it does for much of the year under gunk spewed from the river, hiding it from sunlight. Photosynthesis is a key component of coral survival, yet despite the conditions, the reef appears pristine. It lies between 30 and 120 meters below the surface and spans over 1,000 km in length – making it a subterranean behemoth burgeoning with life.

While the existence of the Amazon reef was an exhilarating find, just weeks ago the first dives down to the reef, in mini submarines due to the depth and conditions, revealed it is far richer than originally thought.

Fabiano Thompson, one of the oceanographers exploring the reef, spoke of its uniqueness in an interview with the Guardian, calling it “a major ecological community of plants and animals with its own endemic species. This makes everything we published out of date. We are rewriting the textbooks.”

“We must now see the river, the forest and the reef working together, interconnected, and making up the richest biodiversity in the world – a mega biome,” said Ronaldo Francini-Filho. Francini-Filho is an ecologist and diver concerned with documenting the reef’s life forms. Having been on 6,000 dives, he says he has never seen anything quite like this.

However jubilation is tempered by developments that threaten the reef’s survival. The Brazilian government has licensed 80 blocks for oil exploration and drilling at the mouth of the river, very near to the recently discovered reef.

Companies seeking permission to drill on the reef will have to undergo scrutiny by environmental and legal bodies. Some believe the drilling can be stopped, and with this recent confirmation of the reef’s richness, a mounting argument against oil extraction is appearing more convincing than ever.

The discovery of a verdant reef lying amid some of the murkiest, muddiest water in the world is a symbol of nature’s ability to fight, thrive and surprise us, despite pollution and the ongoing ramifications of climate change. The fact that life continues to flourish in unlikely places doesn’t nullify the cause of reducing waste and sustaining ocean life. Rather, it’s a deep-sea reminder that has waited patiently for us to discover its wisdom: there is so much worth fighting for, far more than we are even aware of.

Positive Action

  • Reduce the amount of plastic we consume, reusing and recycling when possible. Check out 5 steps to reduce plastic pollution.
  • Show your support for places like marine parks by visiting them and supporting ecotourism. 
  • Get behind groups and individuals who are taking positive action to save the reef, maybe write to your MP.

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Sources

  1. The Guardian 
  2. The Atlantic
  3. National Geographic 
  4. ABC News 

Laura                                             Chalk

Author: Laura Chalk

Laura joined Planet Ark in 2016. She has a wealth of knowledge and experience with a background in teaching English as a second language among other things.
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