In April 2016, scientists working at the mouth of the Amazon River basin made a surprise discovery: a coral reef spanning 9,500 square kilometres.
Greenpeace has now returned the stunning first photos of the corals and sponges after visiting the reef with the oceanographers who found it.
As the images were published, the environmental group issued a plea to the Brazilian government to reconsider plans to let firms drill for oil in the area.
“If Brazil’s commitment [to the Paris Agreement] is serious, we must prevent the exploration of oil in the region and keep fossil fuels in the ground to avoid climate catastrophe,” said Thiago Almeida, campaigner at Greenpeace Brazil.
Greenpeace and oceanographers fear that a potential oil spill would spell the disaster for the unique reef.
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“This reef system is important for many reasons, including the fact that it has unique characteristics regarding use and availability of light, and physicochemical water conditions,” said Nils Asp, Researcher at the Federal University of Pará.
“It has a huge potential for new species, and it is also important for the economic well-being of fishing communities along the Amazonian Coastal Zone,” Asp added.
More than 95 well has already been drilled in the region, with 27 having been abandoned as a result of mechanical incidents and the rest due to the absence of viable gas or oil, Greenpeace said.
Scientists revealed last summer that sections of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, the largest living structure on Earth, had faced complete ecosystem collapse.