First in 120 years! 500m high coral reef discovered in Australia’s Great Barrier Reef; Details

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Updated: Nov 06, 2020 3:05 PM

The reef was found on October 20, when James Cook University’s Dr Robin Beaman was leading an underwater mapping of the seafloor of the Great Barrier Reef.

The reef is taller than the Empire State Building and the Sydney Tower. (File image: Reuters)

Great Barrier Reef: Massive coral reef discovered in Great Barrier Reef for the first time in 120 years! Australian scientists have recently discovered a massive detached coral reef in the Great Barrier Reef, and this is the first to have been discovered in the region in 120 years, the Schmidt Ocean Institute announced in a statement. It was discovered when scientists were aboard Falkor, the institute’s research vessel which has been undertaking a 12-month exploration mission of the ocean surrounding Australia. The reef that has been discovered is 500m tall. This is taller than the Empire State Building and the Sydney Tower.

The reef was found on October 20, when James Cook University’s Dr Robin Beaman was leading an underwater mapping of the seafloor of the Great Barrier Reef. After that, the institute sent its underwater robot SuBastian for a dive to explore the new reef.

Great Barrier Reef: What we know about the new reef

The reef is a blade-like structure, with its base as wide as 1.5 km. It vertically rises 500m, and the top of the reef is a mere 40m below the surface of the sea. The reef has joined seven other tall detached reefs present in the region. These other reefs have been mapped since the late 19th century, including Raine Island reef, which forms the most important area in the world for green sea turtle nesting.

Speaking on the discovery, Schmidt Ocean Institute co-founder Wendy Schmidt said that this only reaffirmed the fact that researchers continue to find unknown species and structures in the ocean, because the knowledge of what is present underwater has been limited for long. However, due to the new technologies acting as hands, eyes and ears underwater, researchers are now able to take up exploration of the deep seas like never before, Wendy said.

Talking about what would come next, the institute’s executive director Jyotika Virmani said that now, the new reef would be understood with the help of underwater imagery and data mapping, and they also hope to understand the role this reef plays in the Great Barrier Reef.

Why is the discovery significant?

The discovery assumes significance because a recent study published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B journal merely days before the discovery had found that over the past 30 years, the Great Barrier Reef has lost more than 50% of its corals. The Great Barrier Reef is the world’s largest reef system and the loss would significantly impact the area.

Reefs provide natural habitat to several independent species underwater, and the loss of such reefs leads to a decline in the abundance of fish and other underwater organisms. Thus, the presence of the new reef is a positive occurrence.

However, it does not mean that the issue is solved. Several small, medium and large corals have declined over the decades, and the researchers are still not sure whether the reef has enough strength to recover from this loss, since the decline is being caused by climate change. Thus, to ensure the survival of the reef and its mass of beautiful corals, reducing the emission of greenhouse gases is an urgent requirement.

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