April 27, 2023: The new coral reef has shown up unexpectedly, and scientists are surprised that it survived the El Nino weather. Coral Reefs? A ReferencePepper!
Ecuador’s environment ministry has recently announced the discovery of a coral reef, heavily studded with marine life, off the Galapagos Islands, a volcanic archipelago distributed on each side of the equator in the Pacific Ocean at a depth of about 400 metres on the summit of a submarine mountain (undersea mountains formed by volcanic activity). The 2-kilometre long reef is totally pristine!
What are Coral Reefs?
Simply explained: Coral reefs are like underwater cities made up of tiny animals called coral polyps. These polyps secrete a hard calcium carbonate skeleton that builds up over time, creating large and complex structures. Coral reefs are incredibly diverse, with many different types of corals, fish, and other marine species calling them home. They are often referred to as "rainforests of the sea" because of their high biodiversity. Coral reefs are not just important for marine life, but also for people. They provide livelihoods to local communities through fishing and tourism, and they are also important for climate regulation, as they absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and act as natural buffers against storms. However, coral reefs are facing threats from climate change, pollution, and other human activities, which are causing coral bleaching and decline in reef health. It's important for us to protect and preserve coral reefs to ensure their survival and the well-being of marine ecosystems and human communities that depend on them.
Why all the excitement? What's the big deal about Coral Reefs?
Coral reefs are critically important due to their exceptional biodiversity, economic value, climate regulation, and conservation significance. They support a staggering array of marine species, provide livelihoods to local communities through fishing and tourism, act as carbon sinks that help mitigate climate change, and serve as indicators of the health of our oceans. Coral reefs are also culturally significant to many coastal communities around the world. Protecting and preserving coral reefs is crucial for the well-being of both marine life and human populations, making their conservation of utmost importance for present and future generations.
- Biodiversity: Coral reefs are home to an incredibly diverse range of marine species, making them one of the most biodiverse ecosystems on the planet. Many of these species are still unknown to science, so every new discovery helps to increase our understanding of the natural world.
- Economic value: Coral reefs provide important economic benefits to local communities through fisheries, tourism, and other industries. The discovery of new reefs can potentially open up new opportunities for sustainable economic development.
- Climate change: Coral reefs are also important for their role in mitigating climate change. They absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and provide a habitat for marine organisms that help to regulate the ocean's temperature and chemistry. The discovery of new coral reefs can help us better understand how these ecosystems function and how they can be protected.
- Conservation: Finally, the discovery of coral reefs can help to highlight the importance of conservation efforts. Coral reefs are under threat from a range of human activities, including overfishing, pollution, and climate change. By discovering new reefs, we can better understand the extent of the problem and work towards finding solutions to protect these important ecosystems.
Photo by Shifaz Abdul Hakkim on Unsplash and Dave Burdick
Up until now, scientists believed that the Wellington reef was the only coral reef to have survived the El Nino weather effects of 1982 and 1983, along the coast of Darwin Island. Therefore, discovery of the new reef, almost several thousand years old, with more than 50% living coral, has startled many.
The 1982–1983 El Niño event was one of the strongest El Niño events ever recorded, that led to droughts in Indonesia and Australia, floods across the southern United States, lack of snow in the northern United States, and an absurd warm winter across much of the mid-latitude regions of North America and Eurasia.
What is El Niño?
Fishermen off the coast of Peru first noticed El Nio when they noticed unusually warm water. Native Peruvians may have given the phenomenon a different name, but Spanish immigrants gave it the English name El Nio, which translates as "the little boy" in English. El Then it was referred to as the Christ Child and was chosen as the name because it frequently occurred around Christmas. El Nio soon expanded beyond simply the warming of coastal surface waters to include irregular and severe climate fluctuations.
The exceptional warming of surface waters in the eastern tropical Pacific Ocean is referred to as El Nino. El Nino is the "warm phase" of the El Nino-Southern Oscillation (ENSO), a more extensive phenomena.
El Nino affects local weather from Australia to South America and beyond as well as ocean temperatures, the strength and speed of ocean currents, the condition of coastal fisheries, and more. Unpredictably, El Nino events happen every two to seven years. But unlike ocean tides, which follow a known pattern, El Nino is not a regular cycle.
Although climate change has contributed to severe temperatures even in years without the El Nino phenomena, 2016 was the warmest year on record so far.
The event changed the normal zones of cold and warm waters around the Galápagos Islands, killing many of the macroalgae that serve as the initiator of several food chains, and completely destroying the prey-predation ratios.
Since many deepwater systems are degraded, this discovery is of great significance at a global level, as pointed out by Stuart Banks, senior marine researcher at the Charles Darwin Foundation, who also participated in this project.
In order to protect the status of endangered migratory species between the Galapagos and the Cocos Island in Costa Rica, Ecuador expanded the Galapagos marine reserve by 60,000 square km, to extend the already existing establishment of about 138,000 square km.
The legendary Galapagos Islands, a home to the endangered giant Galapagos tortoises, cormorants, hawks, iguanas, albatrosses and several other endemic species, were the source of Charles Darwin's theory of evolution and “remain a priceless living laboratory for scientists, even today.” [Quote source: World Wildlife Fund]