This huge coral reef has only just been discovered, and it's undamaged by climate change
Discovery of reef, deeper than most, suggests there may be more unknown large reefs in oceans
Scientists have discovered a pristine, three-kilometre-long reef of giant rose-shaped corals off the coast of Tahiti, in waters of the southern Pacific Ocean thought to be deep enough to protect it from the bleaching effects of the warming ocean.
The reef, which lies at depths of more than 30 metres, probably took around 25 years to grow. Some of the rose-shaped corals measure more than two metres in diameter.
"It was magical to witness giant, beautiful rose corals, which stretch for as far as the eye can see. It was like a work of art," said French photographer Alexis Rosenfeld, who led the team of international divers that made the discovery.
Most of the world's known coral reefs are in warmer waters at depths of up to 25 metres, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) said. The reef off Tahiti lies in the "twilight zone" 30 to 120 metres below the surface where there is still enough light for coral to grow and reproduce.
UNESCO says the newly discovered reef is one of the largest in the world.
A scientific research mission supported by <a href="https://twitter.com/UNESCO?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@UNESCO</a> has discovered one of the world's largest coral reefs off the coast of Tahiti. <br><br>This highly unusual discovery is a great leap forward for <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/science?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#science</a>!<br><br>Read more about <a href="https://twitter.com/AlexisRosenfeld?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@AlexisRosenfeld</a>'s <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/1Ocean?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#1Ocean</a> project: <a href="https://t.co/l3RBzo9QRR">https://t.co/l3RBzo9QRR</a> <a href="https://t.co/XuW9CpXTDc">pic.twitter.com/XuW9CpXTDc</a>—@UNESCO
Bleaching is a stress response by overheated corals during heat waves. They lose their colour, and many struggle to survive.
Perhaps the most famous — Australia's Great Barrier Reef, a World Heritage-listed wonder — has suffered severe bleaching to an estimated 80 per cent of its corals since 2016.
The discovery off Tahiti's shores suggests there may be many more unknown large reefs in our oceans, given that only about 20 per cent of the entire seabed is mapped, according to UNESCO scientists.
"It also raises questions about how coral reefs become more resilient to climate change," UNESCO's head of marine policy, Julian Barbiere, told Reuters.
More of the ocean floor needs to be mapped to better safeguard marine biodiversity, Barbiere said.
"We know more about the surface of the moon or the surface of Mars than the deeper part of the ocean."
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