The Great Barrier Reef in Australia is home to more than 1,500 species of fish, 411 species of coral, along with dozens of other species. But since 1995, it's lost more than half of its corals due to warmer waters and climate change. Recently, one of those pieces of coral has been found. And it's big. It's 1,600 feet tall, to be exact, making it taller than the Empire State Building.
Not only that, but the coral is healthy and thriving. The coral has a healthy ecosystem and a "blizzard of fish," lead scientist Dr. Robin Beaman said per Reuters. "We are surprised and elated by what we have found."
Even better, the coral didn't show any evidence of damage, even though the section of the Great Barrier Reef it was found in experienced bleaching in 2016. Bleaching happens when the water gets too warm, which causes the coral to expel living algae then calcify and turn white.
The coral was found off the coast of North Queensland. Since the late 1800s, seven other detached reefs have been discovered in this area, however this is the first time a discovery of this size has been made in 120 years.
ROV Dive 401 (Pt B) - Newly Discovered 500m Tall Reef youtu.be
The coral was found when a team of scientists from James Cook University were mapping the northern seafloor of the Great Barrier Reef using an underwater robot called SuBastian. The scientists also collected samples, which will be archived and placed in the Queensland Museum and the Museum of Tropical Queensland.
"To find a new half-a-kilometer tall reef in the offshore Cape York area of the well-recognized Great Barrier Reef shows how mysterious the world is just beyond our coastline," Jyotika Virmani, the executive director of Schmidt Ocean Institute, said in a statement. The Schmidt Ocean Institute was behind the expedition, and is a nonprofit that supports ocean research founded by ex-Google CEO Eric Schmidt and his wife Wendy.
The Great Barrier Reef, which stretches over 1,400 miles, and was designated as a World Heritage site in 1981. Unfortunately, the Great Barrier Reef experienced bleaching events in 2016 and 2017. Afterward, the number of newly born corals fell 89% below the historically average amount. On top of that, the replacement corals weren't as big and branching as they used to be, leading some to believe the ocean habitat will never be the same again. The Great Barrier Reef has experienced bleaching before, and has normally rebounded, however the size of the bleaching in 2016 and 2017 is what's worrisome.
While climate change is changing more than just the climate, it's great to know there is marine life that is, in some ways, still thriving.
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