An underwater mapping project recently took an unexpected turn off the coast of Tahiti, where deep-sea explorers said this week they have discovered a stretch of coral reef that looks like a carpet of roses that has been largely unharmed by climate change.
Stretching for about three kilometers (1.86 miles), the reef is very well preserved and is one of the largest ever found at its depth, according to those involved in the mapping project. sponsored by UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.
Some have even described the condition of the reef, hidden at depths from 30 meters (about 100 feet) to 100 meters in the crystalline waters of the South Pacific Ocean, as “pristine.”
Alexis RosenfeldAn underwater photographer from Marseille, France, said on Thursday that the reef lived up to what he had envisioned when he first explored it shortly after being discovered in November.
Mr. Rosenfeld said of the reef about two kilometers from the coast.
Mr. Rosenfeld, 52 years old, photographed coral reefs as part of a deep-sea exploration project called 1 oceancooperation with UNESCO and researchers from CRIOBEa famous French laboratory specializing in the study of coral reef ecosystems, and French National Center for Scientific Research.
Coral reefs occupy an area of the ocean called mesoderm – from the Greek for medium and light – where the algae on which corals depend for survival can still grow but the ability of light to penetrate is significantly reduced, scientists say .
Unlike coral reefs found at shallower depths, which are often shaped like tree branches and are more vulnerable to rising sea temperatures, central reefs, the scientists say their flower-forming properties to gain more surface area and receive more light. For low-light photography, Mr. Rosenfeld said he used the Sony Alpha 1, a full-frame mirrorless camera.
Julian Barbière, head of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission’s Division of Regional Coordination and Marine Policy at UNESCO, said on Thursday he was blown away by the rose petals captured in the pictures. .
“You can see them as far away as the naked eye,” he said. “When they came back and showed us the pictures, we were really surprised by the quality of the ecosystem there.”
Mr. Barbière noted that climate change poses a significant threat to coral reefs, especially those at shallower depths, like those destroyed in recent years. here in the South Pacific is called bleaching. As part of that process, the coral loses its color and its skeleton is exposed.
“That could destroy or actually impact the reef,” he said.
Project participants say accessing the reef is a particular challenge for scientists and photographers because of its depth. They required them to use special breathing apparatus and a mixture of gases containing helium, they said.
John Jackson, a film director of 1 Ocean involved in the project, compared the reef’s shape to the contour. In an interview on Thursday, he said that significant work remains when it comes to underwater exploration, pointing out that only about 20% of the world’s seafloor has been mapped.
“We know every detail of Mars, every detail of the moon and certain planets,” Mr. Jackson said.
Richard Norris, a professor of paleontology at the Scripps Institute of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego, who was not involved in the project, said Thursday that the find is gratifying.
Professor Norris said: “Tahiti is great because it is far from land-based sources of sediment, where the water can be cloudy and make it harder for algae to grow in these deep-water reefs.
He likens the relationship between coral and algae to that of the human body and yeast, saying it’s important to maintain a delicate balance.
“If they are stressed by unusually warm temperatures, it turns a symbiotic relationship with the algae into an antagonistic relationship, where the algae damage the coral and the corals get rid of them,” said Professor Norris. .
After better understanding the coral reef and the marine species that call home, the project participants said they will find ways to apply conservation measures to protect the ecosystem.
“Without discovery,” Mr. Rosenfeld said, “you cannot have science.”
https://www.nytimes.com/2022/01/20/science/tahiti-coral-reef.html Colorful rose-like coral reef discovered in Tahiti