Scientists astounded at discovery of massive coral reef in river Amazon

Amazon waters are believed to be the muddiest waters in the world

Scientists astounded at discovery of massive coral reef in river Amazon

Rodrigo Abd / AP/Press Association Images

A coral reef  system measuring a distance of 9,300 sq km, has been found beneath the muddy waters off the mouth of the river Amazon. 

The existence of the reef, which ranges from about 30-120m deep, was not suspected because many of the world’s great rivers produce major gaps in reef systems where no corals grow. The discovery has left scientists, Governments and oil companies astonished.

Equatorial waters near the mouth of the Amazon are some of the muddiest in the world, with vast quantities of sediment washed thousands of miles down the river and swept hundreds of miles out to sea. This indicates that there was previously little evidence of an active reef there, because corals mostly thrive in clear, sunlit, salt water.

This reef however, appears to be thriving below the freshwater 'plume,' or outflow, of the Amazon. Compared to many other reefs, the scientists say, it is is relatively “impoverished”. Nevertheless, they found fish, spiny lobsters, stars and several other examples of reef life.

A professor of oceanography and climate change at the University of Georgia said:

"I was flabbergasted, as were the rest of the 30 oceanographers. Traditionally, our understanding of reefs has focused on tropical shallow coral reefs which harbour biodiversity that rivals tropical rainforests."

But the reef, is said to be in grave danger. According to sources, the Brazilian government has sold 80 blocks for oil exploration and drilling at the mouth of the Amazon and 20 of these are already producing oil – some, it is thought, right on top of the reef.