The authors of a new study, published in the journal Science Advances, have announced the discovery of a 600 mile stretch of coral reef at the mouth of the Amazon River. The Amazon River is located in South America and accounts for 20 percent of riverine water flowing into the ocean worldwide.
The scientists that made the initial discovery in 2012 based their search for the reef on a six-page research paper published in 1977, according to National Geographic. In 2014, a team of scientists returned to the area to complete their documentation. Their findings are the newly published study.
The area of the tropical North Atlantic where the discovery was made is impacted by a muddy plume emitted by the Amazon River. The plume affects salinity, pH, light penetration and sedimentation making it an unlikely environment for a coral reef. As the authors pointed out, due to state of the water in that area, it was previously thought that a coral reef system would not exist.
The newly discovered coral reef contains 73 species of fish, 61 kinds of sponges and other reef-associated species. The finding is novel because it can provide scientists with information about how coral reefs adapt to environments that are not optimal for reef-construction such as this one formed underneath a massive plume of mud.
oil prospecting in the area will put these reefs at risk should they begin producing oil.
Due to global warming and climate change, these types of inadequate water conditions are spreading. In the study, scientists raised concerns that sponges, in response to climate change, might take over the central part of the reef where corals now dominate. They also wrote that oil prospecting in the area will put these reefs at risk should they begin producing oil.
The discovery comes amid news of an ongoing massive coral bleaching event in Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. The bleaching event is the worst in the UNESCO’s World Heritage site’s history. The most recent El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) is thought to have contributed to the damage.