A Refreshing Rebirth Beneath the Waves
While the aftermath of an El Niño event four decades ago devastated most of the corals around the Galápagos, recent research reveals the existence of flourishing coral sanctuaries in deeper oceanic realms near these equatorial islands.
The First Gem: Cacho De Coral
In April, marine experts identified an untouched deep coral reef in the region named “Cacho De Coral.” Situated atop an underwater volcanic ridge, this reef spans roughly 250 meters.
A Second, Greater Revelation
By October 26, another research crew brought to light an even more expansive reef, stretching an impressive 800 meters, equivalent to the length of eight football fields.
Given the alarming rate at which coral reefs are degrading worldwide, primarily due to climate change, these revelations from the depths of the Galápagos Islands Marine Reserve serve as a beacon of positivity. Remarkably, these underwater marvels remain unaffected by human activities and the immediate repercussions of rising sea temperatures.
A Serendipitous Find with SuBastian
Oceanographer Stuart Banks and his team embarked on a month-long sea journey to explore these marine wonders, leveraging a remotely operated robot named SuBastian. While navigating through the Galápagos Islands Marine Reserve, besides visiting Cacho De Coral, they were elated to chance upon the second, larger reef.
Describing the unexpected find, Banks, affiliated with the Charles Darwin Research Station on Santa Cruz Island, commented, “It’s akin to discovering a basement in your own home filled with awe-inspiring treasures.”
Cold, Deep and Preserved
These newfound coral havens, positioned up to 420 meters beneath the ocean surface, benefit from their cooler environment, as noted by the Schmidt Ocean Institute based in Palo Alto, Calif. Unlike their counterparts thriving in sunlit, warmer waters which are more vulnerable to climate change effects, these deep-sea corals prosper in dimmer, colder areas.
Spotting such expansive living coral territories is a rarity, and their intricate ecosystems often necessitate closer inspections to unveil their hidden inhabitants. Expressing his excitement, Banks shared, “Witnessing these coral expanses for the first time is always a profound experience.”