The view from Tahiti looking out on the Pacific Ocean.
Divers have found a new coral reef near the island of Tahiti in the Pacific Ocean. The reef is more than 200 feet wide and stretches for almost 2 miles. Having grown in water between 100 and 200 feet deep, this new reef is one of the largest ever found at this depth.
Coral reefs are formed by small, soft ocean animals called polyps. The polyps grow together in large colonies. The skeletons of these polyps are the hard, rock-like substances that make-up reefs. When most people think of coral they think of these rocky skeletons.
In general, coral reefs need sunlight. Corals feed on algae, and this algae needs sunlight to grow. Most coral reefs are found in warmer, shallower waters up to about 80 feet deep. The new reef found near Tahiti is unusual because it’s at a depth that gets a lot less sunlight.
In recent years, many coral reefs have become endangered because of climate change and pollution. Coral reefs in shallow waters have experienced coral bleaching. If the water heats up too much a reef’s coral polyps die. All that is left behind are the white, bleached skeletons. In the past 15 years, about 30 percent of Earth’s coral reefs have died.
The divers who found the new coral reef in Tahiti describe it as pristine, or perfect. It seems to be, so far, unaffected by climate change. Scientists want to study this new reef and the animals that live there. They hope that what they learn can help protect other coral reefs from the effects of climate change.
Coral reefs are very important places, and worth saving. About 25 percent of all ocean animals live in and around coral reefs. If warming trends aren’t reversed, some scientists warn that all coral reefs will disappear by the year 2100.