The world’s coral reefs are facing tremendous stress from warming global temperatures, pollution, overfishing, and ocean acidification. But hope for their long-term survival can be found deeper in the ocean. During an expedition in the Galápagos Marine Reserve this past spring, explorers aboard the human-occupied vehicle (HOV) Alvin discovered ancient coral reefs in near pristine condition roughly two thousand feet deep (600 meters) along an unmapped seamount. The reef, which spans several kilometers (about 2 miles), supports a cornucopia of life and consists of up to 60% live coral cover—an unprecedented percentage compared to shallow reefs, according to expedition co-leader Dr. Michelle Taylor from the University of Essex.
The expedition, co-led by Taylor, WHOI marine geologist Dan Fornari, and senior marine researcher Dr. Stuart Banks of the Charles Darwin Foundation, garnered the attention of Ecuador’s Minister of the Environment, Jose Antonio Dávalos, who heralded the discovery as an example of the value of marine protected areas globally