A few years ago, the discovery of an extensive coral reef system at the mouth of the Amazon River left the science community amazed as the reef had been hiding right in front of their eyes for so long. Unfortunately, that amazement quickly faded after finding out that the reef was sitting on top of vast quantities of oil and gas reserves that oil companies were looking to take advantage of.
Originally, the reef was believed to stretch 620 miles down the eastern coast of Brazil, covering 3,600 square miles. Now, in a new paper in Frontiers in Marine Science, it has been revealed that the reef is much bigger than thought.
Even worse news is that the newly discovered portion of the reef is smack dab in the middle of where areas already have been sold off to the oil and gas companies BP and Total to drill for oil.
A team of scientists onboard the Greenpeace Esperanza discovered the existence of the extended reef where companies intends to drill for oil. The finding proves the existence of a reef formation in the area and invalidates Total’s Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), which states the closest reef formation is five miles away from one of the oil blocks.
The discovery that the reef is larger is based on footage of the reef captured by Greenpeace in 2017 and shows that the reef actually covers an area of 21,600 square miles, nearly six times larger than originally though.
“To learn the Amazon Reef extends beyond our expectations was one of the most exciting moments of my research about this ecosystem,” says Professor Fabiano Thompson, oceanographer an at Rio de Janeiro Federal University. “The more we research about the Amazon Reef, the more we find. We still know so little about this fascinating new ecosystem and the knowledge obtained so far indicates any oil drilling activity could seriously harm this unique system.”
The drilling rights granted to Total were based on the premise that it would not interfere with the Amazon reef. But due to the recent findings and the use of a rover that captured images of the seafloor where the drilling would have taken place, it proved that the reef is actually located in the area and the EIA is invalid.
Found in the area are beds of rhodoliths, which are calcareous algae that grow on the seabed, along with deep-water sponges. The environments provide habitats for many sea creatures including fish, lobster, and sea stars. Greenpeace has set out to get the oil companies or the Brazilian government to cancel the projects and should hear a final decision in the coming weeks.