Rare, pristine coral reef found off Tahiti coast

Scientists have mapped a pristine coral reef off the coast of Tahiti with rose-shaped corals that seem to be untouched by climate change or human activity. Scientists hope to learn how the reef stays resilient.

Climate, Science

1/20/2022 3:36:00 AM

Scientists have mapped a pristine coral reef off the coast of Tahiti with rose-shaped corals that seem to be untouched by climate change or human activity. Scientists hope to learn how the reef stays resilient.

Deep in the South Pacific, scientists have explored a rare stretch of pristine corals shaped like roses off the coast of Tahiti . The reef is thought to be one of the largest found at such depths and seems untouched by climate change or human activities.

The newfound reef, stretching 2 miles (3 kilometers), was studied late last year during a dive expedition supported by UNESCO. Unlike most of the world’s mapped corals, which are found in relatively shallow waters, this one was deeper — between 115 feet (35 meters) to 230 feet (70 meters).

Exploring such depths posed a challenge: the deeper a diver goes underwater, the shorter amount of time can be safely spent at each depth. The team was equipped with special tanks and did 200 hours of diving to study the reef, including taking photographs, measurements and samples of the coral.

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Rare, pristine coral reef found off Tahiti coastDeep in the South Pacific, scientists have explored a rare stretch of pristine corals shaped like roses off the coast of Tahiti . The reef is thought to be one of the largest found at such depths and seems untouched by climate change or human activities. Laetitia Hédouin said she first saw the corals during a recreational dive with a local diving club months earlier. fragile beauty?

Rare, pristine coral reef found off Tahiti coastDeep in the South Pacific, scientists have explored a rare stretch of pristine corals shaped like roses off the coast of Tahiti . The reef is thought to be one of the largest found at such depths and seems untouched by climate change or human activities. Laetitia Hédouin said she first saw the corals during a recreational dive with a local diving club months earlier. fragile beauty?

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ADVERTISEMENT The newfound reef, stretching 2 miles (3 kilometers), was studied late last year during a dive expedition supported by UNESCO. Unlike most of the world’s mapped corals, which are found in relatively shallow waters, this one was deeper — between 115 feet (35 meters) to 230 feet (70 meters). Exploring such depths posed a challenge: the deeper a diver goes underwater, the shorter amount of time can be safely spent at each depth. The team was equipped with special tanks and did 200 hours of diving to study the reef, including taking photographs, measurements and samples of the coral. The reef is in a spot where many researchers haven’t spent a lot of time in, said former National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration oceanographer Mark Eakin. “We’ll be seeing more of these discoveries as the technology is applied to these locations,” said Eakin. “We may find some bigger ones somewhere, but I think this is always going to be an unusual reef.” The recent volcanic eruption in Tonga that triggered tsunami waves across the Pacific has not affected the reef off Tahiti, said Hédouin. Hédouin hopes the research can help experts understand how the reef has been resilient to climate change and human pressures, and what role these deeper corals might play in the ocean ecosystem. More dives are planned in the coming months. “We know very little about the ocean, and there’s still so much that needs to be recorded, needs to be measured,” said Julian Barbière, the head of UNESCO’s marine policy and regional coordination. ___ The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content. AP NEWS