SCIENCE

Researchers Discover A Massive 600 Mile-Long Coral Reef In The Amazon

  • Osvaldo Nunez , Design & Trend Contributor
  • Apr, 25, 2016, 10:10 PM
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(Photo : NASA)

Satellite images of the Amazon reveal a massive coral reef that stretches over 600 miles, said scientists from Brazil. The area is home to where the world's largest river meets the sea.

The satellite images showed red areas stretching out to the ocean. Up close, it is revealed that the 600-mile area is filled with mud. Scientists are surprised that coral could thrive in such an environment.

"This is something totally new and different from what is present in any other part of the globe," Fabiano Thompson, an oceanographer at the Federal University in Rio, told Smithsonian magazine. "But until now, it's been almost completely overlooked."

Oceanographer Patricia Yager, Rodrigo Moura and their colleagues embarked on a mission to the area where they would inspect the sea floor there. "Our expedition into the Brazil Exclusive Economic Zone was primarily focused on sampling the mouth of the Amazon," said Yager, an associate professor with the University of Georgia and principal investigator of the project, in a statement.

What the researchers found were vibrant corals, brittle stars, sponges, spiny lobsters and many fish.

This finding comes during a period when researchers are stressing how endangered reefs are. Despite the amount of mud in the area, the Amazon seems to be well and healthy, although Yager believes that it will likely become endangered.

"From ocean acidification and ocean warming to plans for offshore oil exploration right on top of these new discoveries, the whole system is at risk from human impacts," Yager said.

Overall, the researchers found 61 species of sponge, 73 types of fish, 35 species of algae, 26 soft corals, 12 stony corals and more. Many of these species found were actually discovered. The fact that they lived in the area showed that reefs could survive suboptimal conditions. However, soon, this may not be possible.

"In the past decade, a total of 80 exploratory blocks have been acquired for oil drilling in the study region, 20 of which are already producing," the study authors wrote. "... Such large-scale industrial activities present a major environmental challenge."

In regards to the lesson learned from this finding, Yager could not have put it in better words: "You don't know what you've got until it's gone."

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