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The natural world. Looking pretty for 3.5b years.

Australia's New Reefs

Australia's New Reefs

Author: Hugh Bollinger/Monday, September 5, 2016/Categories: natural history, wildlife conservation, marine life, sustainability, environment, adventure , climate change

        LIDAR map of new reefs (red) beyond the Great Barrier Reef (credit: Australian Hydrographic Service)

A new series of reefs has been discovered in Australia. Researchers from James Cook University, working with laser data from the Royal Australian Navy, have discovered a vast marine ecosystem behind the Great Barrier Reef.

According to their announcement, the new reefs were "hiding in plain sight" in deeper waters. Their distribution was discovered using high-resolution seafloor data gathered by LiDAR-equipped aircraft that revealed great fields of unusual donut-shaped circular mounds (bioherms), each 650 to almost 1000 feet across and up to 30 feet tall.

The lead researcher Robin Beaman said:

“We’ve known about these geological structures in the northern Great Barrier Reef since the 1970s and 80s, but never the true nature of their shape, size, and vast scale been revealed. The astounding revalation of the deeper seafloor behind the familiar coral reefs amazed us.”

The Great Barrier Reef is produced by corals while the new reefs are made of fields of donut-shaped rings of Halimeda bioherms, formed by the growth of a marine green algae and living calcified segments. These form small limestone flakes on death that build up over time into large, round, reef-like mounds. The LiDAR maps show over 2300 square miles of the newly discovered reefs spanning from the Torres Straits in Australia's Northern Territories to Queensland's Port Douglas.

These new reefs form significant marine biodiversity habitat. They will significantly expand understanding of potential ecological resilience for the Great Barrier Reefs ability to recovery from coral bleaching and other environmental stresses.

Waiting in plain sight, indeed. What still waits discovery in these new marine ecosystems?

WHB

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