Divers discover largest, untouched coral reef off the coast of Tahiti

The newfound reef found in Tahiti is thought to be one of the largest found at such depths and seems untouched by climate change or human activities.

Scientists have discovered a rare stretch of coral reefs off the coast of Tahiti. The pristine, rose-shaped corals were found at depths of between 35 and 70 meters.

‘Like a dream come true’

The discovery was made by a staff of France’s National Centre for Scientific Research, Laetitia Hédouin and her colleagues during a recreational diving expedition in November last year.

Believed to be the one of the largest to be found at such depths, scientists were excited to discover it has been untouched by climate change and human activities. Hédouin recalled the moment she came across the reef.

When I went there for the first time, I thought, ’Wow — we need to study that reef. There’s something special about that reef.

What struck Hédouin was that the corals looked healthy and weren’t affected by a bleaching event in 2019. Also, Its pristine condition is what makes it particularly remarkable, she found. Hédouin said:

It’s a very healthy reef, like a dream come true. In the middle of the biodiversity crisis, this is very good news.

Ecosystem services

Corals are tiny animals that grow and form reefs in oceans around the world. They have been depleted across the world due to overfishing and pollution.

A 2020 report by the Global Coral Reef Monitoring Project suggested that 14 percent of the world’s corals were killed between 2009 and 2018.

Coral reefs provide crucial ecosystem services that many humans rely on for their livelihood. Hédouin explained:

We need coral reefs for fisheries, for tourism, even for coastal protection. There are also benefits to coral reefs which are not always that obvious

Quite apart from these, emerging studies have pointed to their medicinal benefits as well. Julian Barbière at UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission said:

We are finding more and more potential medical solutions through some of the marine organisms that lived in those ecosystems. Those could help develop drugs to treat cancer or arthritis for example.
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