2016 Was a Year of New Reef Discoveries
If you thought that all of our coral reefs had already been discovered, then we have surprises for you. 2016 was a great year for new discoveries and explorations in the physical world and the world of technology. BlueOcean.net covered three great stories from Australia to the Amazon with Hawaii thrown in for good measure.
Update: Celebrating The Year of the Reef
During 2018 we are celebrating The International Year of The Reef. Over the next six months we will increase the frequency of our articles on the world’s coral reef ecosystems. We will include current news on the health of reefs and the worldwide efforts to maintain and restore them. In addition, we will republish a variety of our past, but still very pertinent and helpful articles on coral reefs. Our hope is that this effort will focus more attention on these very important issues.
Mysterious Doughnuts Found off Great Barrier Reef
Sounds funny to say “Mysterious Doughnuts”, however stay with me. In August it was disclosed that scientists had determined the nature of mysterious geologic structures in deep Australian waters off the Great Barrier Reef. Not until the use of new, lasar aerial images using a technology called Lidar were scientists able to successfully map the seafloor and discover giant doughnut-shaped mounds. Yes doughnuts! Well, at least shaped like doughnuts. (photo credit – Australian Hydrographic Service)
They ascertained that these strange mounds cover about 2000 square miles and are spread from the Torres Strait in the northern Great Barrier Reef, south toward the Port Douglas area in Queensland and are not composed of coral but a type of green algae that when decomposed forms these unique shapes.
See the BlueOcean.net article: Undewater Doughnuts Discovered off Great Barrier Reef
Muddy Waters Hide Coral Reefs Under the Amazon
Half way around the world from Australia, in one of the most unlikely places, oceanographers discovered vast coral reefs obscured by the muddy waters flowing from the mouth of the Amazon River. In April, 2016, it was announced in the journal Science Advances, that 600 miles of a reef system composed of sponges and coral was discovered off Brazil’s northern coast. Covering 3600 square miles, the scientists using deep dredges brought samples of corals, fish, sponges and seastars, all the indications that they had really discovered a reef. Finding this new reef in what is considered to be inhospitable environments may add to our understanding of what coral reefs can tolerate. (photo – M-Sat Planetobserver /Science Photo Library / Corbis)
See the BlueOcean.net article: Amazon’s Muddy Discharge Hides Life on Sea Bottom
Exploring Hawaii’s Twilight Zone
In October, 2016, a discovery was published revealing that Hawaii has some of the world’s most extensive deep water, coral reefs. Diving in Hawaii’s Twilight Zone, between 100 and 500 feet deep, the reefs are mostly too deep for conventional scuba equipment and too shallow for most submersible exploration. The 20 year long study revealed some dramatic areas of coral reefs and extensive areas of algae, all habitats that require sunlight, however found at a darker depth of 165-300 feet (50-90 meters). (photo credit NOAA & Hawaii Underwater research Laboratory – AP)
New Collaboration of Technologies
Conducted by a mixed group of scientists and biologists their work sheds important light on the protection and management of diverse coral reef systems, but also brought together a new mix of technology and expertise. Using multibeam, bathymetry mapping, remotely operated vehicles, towed cameras, submersibles and advanced mixed-gas, closed circuit, re-breather dive equipment, they demonstrated that we can work in these otherwise, difficult to access environments.
“Free-swimming divers and submersibles don’t often work side-by-side on scientific research projects,” said Pyle. “Submersibles can go much deeper and stay much longer, but divers can perform more complex tasks to conduct experiments and collect specimens. Combining both together on the same dive allowed us to achieve tasks that could not have been performed by either technology alone.” (photo credit – Robert Whitton)
See the Blue Ocean post:: Re-breathers and Submersibles work side by side to reveal Hawaii’s Hidden Reefs. Plus see our recent and related story on Richard Pyle, a pioneer in developing re-breather technology and the discoveries that this technology has allowed Richard to make in the Twilight Zone. See: Richard Pyle Explores Mysterious, Deep Coral Reefs
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