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The photos of the newly discovered reef in the Amazon River

Lo scorso anno un gruppo di oceanologi statunitensi e brasiliani ha scoperto una barriera corallina dove si pensava non potesse esistere: nel Rio delle Amazzoni.

The barrier reefs of our planet are dying. They’re being killed by a relentless ocean acidification, global temperature rise, overfishing, waste disposal and deforestation. Yet, last year a group of Brazilian scientists discovered a barrier reef at the mouth of the Amazon River, where textbooks said there shouldn’t be one.

amazon reef
Scientists found many species of fish, crustaceans, starfish and sponges © Greenpeace

A surprising underwater world

The reef has been discovered off the mouth of the Amazon River, in the Atlantic Ocean, at a depth of 50 to 100 metres. The reef appears to be huge, stretching for some 10,000 square kilometres. Unlike similar ecosystems, this reef has been found in muddy waters. That’s why it wasn’t discovered earlier and scientists still know little about the species it is home to.

amazon reef
“We found a reef where the textbooks said there shouldn’t be one,” said study co-author Fabiano Thompson of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro © Greenpeace

The first expeditions showed that the Amazon reef’s biodiversity is not as rich as other tropical reefs. However, scientists already observed many species, including more than 70 species of fish, crustaceans, sponge and starfish. “We brought up the most amazing animals I’ve ever seen on an expedition like this,” said Patricia Yager of the University of Georgia. “There were sea fans, and yellow tubes, and tiny, sunset-colored fish, as well as pink coral-like crusted algae called rhodoliths, and gorgeous sponges in yellow and red”.

The first pictures of the Amazon reef have been shot and released by Greenpeace, which also launched a campaign to protect the newly discovered reef.

amazon reef
The coral reef stretches for over 9,300 square kilometres © Greenpeace

Oil companies threaten the reef

Several dangers loom over this surprising ecosystem, which is mainly threatened by oil exploration. “Large-scale industrial activities represent a huge environmental challenge, and companies should commit to carrying out a social and economic assessment,” read the study published in the journal Science.

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