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Healthy Deep-Water Corals Growing in Great Barrier Reef

Oct 28, 2012 02:16 PM EDT

An underwater survey has found thriving coral reefs at depths of 30 meters and below, on the Great Barrier Reef in Queensland, Australia.

The Catlin Seaview Survey has discovered healthy coral reefs at depths of 30-120 meters. Researchers used remotely operated vehicles (ROV's) with high definition cameras to capture the images of these coral communities as they were out of reach for scuba divers, reported Guardian.

They noticed coral reefs flourishing underneath the damaged coral reefs of the Great Barrier Reef.  

The good news has come just few weeks after a survey by the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) and the University of Wollongong, which revealed that the coral cover in Australia's Great Barrier Reef has declined by more than half in the last 27 years as a result of storm damage, bleaching and population explosion of crown of thorns starfish.

So far, there hasn't been much information on the deep sea coral reefs. Scuba divers have been able to access the reefs only up to a depth of 30 meters. This is the first time researchers have explored coral reefs thriving in deep waters.

"Some of the shallow areas of the reefs we've been diving on have been completely devastated by cyclones, but as soon as we dive to depths of 40m and below, the areas are almost completely untouched," Pim Bongaerts of the University of Queensland's global change institute, who is leading the deep reef survey, told the Guardian.

What's more interesting is that experts have already identified some species of the coral reefs that exist in shallow waters, as well. This could mean that the coral population in deep sea waters and shallow waters are the same.

Experts suggest that deep-sea coral reefs might help in reviving the damaged coral reefs in shallow waters as the same population is located in both areas.

Until now, researchers have performed four of their ten surveys and have collected more than 10,000 deep coral specimens from depths below 40 meters.

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