First Ever Cold Water Coral Reef Found In Greenland
January 28, 2014

First Ever Cold Water Coral Reef Found In Greenland

[ Watch the Video: Cold Water Coral Reef Discovered In Greenland ]

Lee Rannals for - Your Universe Online

Researchers have discovered the first ever cold-water coral reef in Greenland at a depth of nearly 3,000 feet below sea-level.

Scientists have found several species of coral in Greenland, but this is the first time that an actual reef has been found.

The team discovered the Greenlandic reef in southwest Greenland off Cape Desolation south of lvittuut. They found the reef by accident when a Canadian research vessel needed to take some water samples. The ship sent down some measuring instruments to about 3,000 feet, and they came back up completely smashed, with several pieces of coral branches stuck to them.

"At first the researchers were swearing and cursing at the smashed equipment and were just about to throw the pieces of coral back into the sea, when luckily they realized what they were holding," Helle Jørgensbye, a PhD student at Technical University of Denmark, who does research into life at the bottom of the west Greenland waters, said in a statement.

Another ship was sent out to the area last fall to try and capture images of the reef, but this proved to be difficult due to the strong currents. Jørgensbye says they eventually were able to get some photos, but almost lost the camera when it got stuck somewhere down around the reef.

“It’s been known for many years that coral reefs have existed in Norway and Iceland and there is a lot of research on the Norwegian reefs, but not a great deal is known about Greenland. In Norway, the reefs grow up to 30 meters (100 feet) high and several kilometers long. The great Norwegian reefs are over 8,000 years old, which means that they probably started to grow after the ice disappeared after the last Ice Age. The Greenlandic reef is probably smaller, and we still don’t know how old it is,” said Jørgensbye.

She said that having reefs around countries like Greenland means that the sea temperature gets up to about 39 degrees, making it warm enough for the corals to thrive.

“In addition to the, for Greenland, comparatively warm temperature, a coral reef also needs strong currents. Both these conditions can be found in southern Greenland," the student said.

Coral reefs help provide fish with masses of food and protection from predators. Tropical coral reefs depend on light to survive, but cold-water coral reefs live in total darkness and at depths that UV rays are unable to reach. Despite these dark and harsh conditions, the coral reefs still have plenty of organisms living in them. The animals in cold water coral reefs get all their nourishment from small animals.

Professor Ole Tendal, from Denmark’s Natural History Museum, says that the Greenlandic reef is made up of Lophelia stoney corals. Other coral species have been found in parts of Greenland’s west coast, but they are “stand-alone” corals and do not form reefs.


Image Below: Coral from the newly discovered reef. Credit: Bedford Institute of Oceanography