May 17, 2022 3:22 pm

A rare coral reef recently discovered near Tahiti

Early indications suggest that its depth has protected it from bleaching caused by global warming.

“It was magical to witness the gigantic and beautiful pink corals stretching as far as the eye could see. It’s like a work of art,” said Alexis Rosenfeld, French photographer and founder of the #1Ocean campaign, who led the mission of diving.

a buried treasure

The extraordinary thing about the find is its deep location, since the vast majority of coral reefs that are known in the world only go down to about 25 meters.

Rose-shaped corals usually measure up to two meters in diameter; however, this reef is between 30 and 65 meters wide.

The discovery suggests that there are many more large reefs, at depths greater than 30 meters, in what is known as the “twilight zone” of the ocean, which is unknown to us,” said the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

Hailing the “incredible work” of scientists who suspected there might be a spectacular coral reef off the coast of Tahiti, UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay noted that only 20% of the seabed is mapped.

“We know the surface of the moon better than the depths of the ocean,” he said. “This remarkable discovery in Tahiti demonstrates the extraordinary work of scientists who, with the support of UNESCO, are expanding our understanding of what lies hidden on the seafloor.”

© Alexis Rosenfeld

The coral reef has been discovered off the coast of Tahiti in French Polynesia.

jump into the depths

The expedition responsible for this marine exploration is part of UNESCO’s ocean mapping initiative.

Finding coral reefs of this size is significant because they are a vital food source for other organisms and as such can aid biodiversity research.

The organisms that live in these underwater structures can also be key to medical research and, from a sustainability point of view, can protect against coastal erosion and even tsunamis.

“French Polynesia suffered significant coral reef bleaching in 2019, but this does not appear to have been significantly affected,” said Dr. Laetitia Hedouin, from France’s National Center for Scientific Research and environmental research agency CRIOBE, which was present at the mission.

In perfect condition

“The discovery of this reef in a pristine state is welcome news and may inspire future conservation. We believe deeper reefs may be better protected from global warming.”

Until now, very few scientists have been able to locate, investigate and study coral reefs deeper than 30 meters. However, technological advances have allowed for longer duration dives at these depths.

In total, the team made dives of about 200 hours to study the reef, and were able to witness the coral spawning. In the coming months, more descents are planned to continue investigating the reef.

the guardians of the ocean

UNESCO is the United Nations agency responsible for ocean research. Its Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission, founded in 1960, in which 150 countries participate, coordinates global programs such as ocean mapping and a tsunami warning system, as well as numerous scientific research projects.

The agency is also the guardian of unique ocean places, with 232 marine biosphere reserves and 50 World Heritage marine sites (EN) of Outstanding Universal Value.

UNESCO also coordinates the United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development, from 2021 to 2030, which this year includes several international summits with the aim of expanding international cooperation and action.

Reference-news.un.org

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