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Newly Discovered Coral Reef System Found At the Amazon River Already in Grave Danger

Apr 24, 2016 02:00 AM EDT

Researchers are flabbergasted over the discovery of a coral reef system located at the muddy waters off the mouth of the Amazon River.

Corals are known to thrive in clear, sunlit saltwater. The Amazon plume, the area where fresh water from the river mixes with the salty Atlantic Ocean, creates gaps in the reef distribution along the tropical shelves, making it difficult for the corals to grow. Thus, the discovery of a coral reef system at the mouth of the Amazon River is significantly surprising, considering its mud and brackishness.

According to the paper published in the journal Science Advances, the newly discovered 3,600 sq mile (9,300 sq km) coral reef system contains over 73 species of fish, 60 species of sponges, spiny lobsters and other forms of reef life.

"The paper is not just about the reef itself, but about how the reef community changes as you travel north along the shelf break, in response to how much light it gets seasonally by the movement of the plume," said Patricia Yager, an associate professor of Marine Sciences in UGA's Franklin College of Arts and Sciences and principal investigator of the River-Ocean Continuum of the Amazon Project, in a statement.

At present, we are facing the third global coral bleaching event due to climate change, and the discovery of more robust reefs in unusual place such as the mouth of the Amazon River can greatly help researchers better understand which organisms can tolerate harsher conditions.

Nature World News previously reported that the Great Barrier Reef, the largest living structure on Earth, is experiencing the worst mass coral bleaching event in the history with 93 percent currently suffering bleaching.

Sadly, this newly found reef is already in imminent danger just after being found. The Guardian reported that the Brazilian government has sold 80 blocks for oil exploration and drilling at the mouth of the river. 20 of those are already producing oil. Some of the blocks are also located right on top of the reef.

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