Astonishing discovery off the US East Coast: the largest deep-water coral reef unveiled

A new cold-water coral reef has just been discovered in the deep ocean off the eastern United States thanks to immense work mapping the seabed and its species.

In an incredible discovery off the eastern shores of the United States, scientists have mapped the cold-water coral reefs, unveiling a new reef that stands as the largest deep-water coral habitat identified to date.

This revelation comes from a scientific study published in the journal Geomatics, where a collaborative team from various institutes and scientific agencies, including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), shared data from years of ongoing research.

Mapping the depths: exploring the Blake Plateau

The research team explored the Blake Plateau, reaching depths of up to 1000 meters, utilizing a multi-beam echo sounder—a sonar technology that creates a detailed grid of the seabed, allowing for a precise understanding of its characteristics.

With this tool, experts were able to inspect an area nearly the size of the state of Florida, discovering 83,908 coral mounds. “For years, we believed that much of the Blake Plateau was sparsely inhabited, mainly consisting of soft sediments. However, after over a decade of systematic mapping and exploration, we’ve unveiled one of the largest deep-water coral reef habitats found anywhere in the world,” stated Kasey Cantwell, head of NOAA Ocean Exploration operations.

The prevailing species: Desmophyllum pertusum

Predominantly, the coral species identified in the study area is Desmophyllum pertusum, which thrives at depths ranging from 200 to 1,000 meters where the average water temperature is around 4°C.

Cold-water corals are still relatively unknown due to their environment. They are recognized as “ecosystem engineers,” but the impact of human activities on these reef populations is not fully understood.

The importance of cold-water maps

Access to a map of cold-water areas allows the scientific community to gain a better understanding of these coral habitats. “This study provides a methodology aimed at interpreting cartographic data over vast ocean regions to gain insights into seafloor habitats and advance standardized approaches for classifying them, supporting ecosystem management and conservation efforts,” said Derek Sowers, the lead author of the study.

Currently, it is estimated that approximately 50% of US marine waters remain unmapped. When looking at the oceans globally, this percentage rises to 75. Further research may reveal more astonishing discoveries.

Source: Geomatics

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