In the far north of Brazil, where the Amazon River meets the sea, there is a newly-discovered natural treasure – a hidden coral reef in a region where no one thought possible. Because muddy water from the Amazon River clouds the sea surface, almost no light reaches the reef, making it unlilkely to find a reef with a complex marine life there.
But that is where the Amazon reef was found – a unique and very special discovery. And it is huge! We are talking about 9,500 square kilometers of formations including giant sponges (which are longer than 2 meters/6.5 feet) and calcareous algae, called rhodolith.
The discovery of this reef was announced in April 2016 when a group of scientists published an article about it. They believe that the Amazon reef, which spans from Brazil to the border with French Guiana, could be a new marine biome. They continue to study the reef and the new species found there.
However, this unique treasure is already under threat. The mouth of the Amazon River is the next frontier for oil exploration in Brazilian waters. Oil companies Total and BP want to start exploratory drilling in the area. One of the blocks of oil owned by Total is just eight kilometers from the reef, making drilling there risky business and the environmental licensing processes are already underway.
Drilling in that area means an imminent and constant risk of an oil spill. This is a threat not only to the reef, but to the ecosystem of the basin of the Amazon River mouth. This area is a crucial habitat for the American manatee, the yellow-spotted Amazon river turtle, and the giant river otter – species that are already at some risk of extinction, according to the 2014 IUCN List (International Union for Conservation of Nature).