Last April, researchers discovered something incredible: a massive, previously undiscovered coral reef stretching over 600 miles from French Guiana to Maranhão in Brazil. Spanning 3,600 square miles, the reef system is completely different from anything else in the world.
It was a baffling to find something so huge in a relatively well-explored part of the world, and researchers went crazy over it. One of the most interesting parts of the whole thing was that it was a complete accident, discovered by a team looking for something totally unrelated. “Our expedition into the Brazil Exclusive Economic Zone was primarily focused on sampling the mouth of the Amazon,” explained Patricia Yager, the principal investigator of the project.
Rivers aren’t usually the best places for coral reefs. Lack of salinity and light disrupt the formation of coral, but the Amazon reef, as nature likes to do, found a way. Over 70 different species of fish call the reef home, and among them are 29 possible new species. The entire system is larger than London.
Researchers recently launched a mini-sub in an exploration project, as the reef may be in danger. The images they captured are stunning, and the first real look at a never-before-seen coral system. The team consisted of a handful of the research team that found the reef, who came aboard Greenpeace’s vessel, the Esperanza.
Although it’s currently in good health, according to Greenpeace, Total and BP have their sights set on a nearby area that might hold up to 20 billion barrels of crude. “We must defend the reef and the entire region at the mouth of the Amazon River basin from the corporate greed that puts profits ahead of the environment,” Thiago Almeida, campaigner at Greenpeace Brazil, said on IFLScience. “One of Total’s oil blocks is only eight kilometers from the reef, and environmental licensing processes are already under way.”