Giant Deep Sea Coral Reef Discovered Off Coast of South Carolina

Even though ocean exploration and exquipment has been advanced enough for quite some time, researchers are still continuing to make astonishing discoveries in the ocean and the latest discovery is definitely no exception

160 miles off the coast of Charleston, South Carolina, researchers on the ship Atlantis discovered a dense forest of deep sea coral that about a half mile below the ocean’s surface. Spanning more than 85 miles, the discovery is huge as it will allow for researchers to push for protecting the ocean as it is an extremely important ecological spot.

“This is a huge feature,” said Erik Cordes, the expedition’s chief scientist, to the Huffington Post. “It’s incredible that it stayed hidden off the U.S. East Coast for so long.”

When asked how much coral was there, Cordes responded with, “Just mountains of it. We couldn’t find a place that didn’t have corals.”

The existence was first flagged from sonar mapping and was officially confirmed using a pair of submersible dives. The expedition’s original mission was to explore uncharted canyons, gas seeps and coral ecosystems off the Atlantic coast.

The forest of coral has likely been growing for thousands of years and is placed on giant mounds of rubble that were constructed by the corals that came before.  Cordes predicts that the reef probably plays a keystone role in the region’s fisheries.

Adding to the importance of the discovery, the timing of the find could not be more important as the Trump administration is proposing an expansive offshore drilling plan could stretch up and down the Atlantic coast. Researchers hope that their findings will slow the plans, or at least strengthen efforts to designate protected zones. Given that these coral reefs are a new, previously unstudied ecosystem, it’s unclear just how sensitive the region’s ecology might be to oil and gas exploration.

 

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