The reef may be new to us, but we’re not new to the reef.
Scientists found a 600-mile, previously undiscovered coral reef at the mouth of the Amazon River last week. But while this may be the first time humans have noticed the reef, we’ve been threatening its existence for years.
"From ocean acidification and ocean warming to plans for offshore oil exploration right on top of these new discoveries, the whole system is at risk from human impacts," Patricia Yager, one of the researchers who discovered the reef, said in a statement.
This newly discovered natural wonder—home to more than 70 different species of fish and crustaceans—exists in an area that is already largely owned by oil companies. Of the 80 blocks of the area that Brazil has sold for oil exploration, about 20 are already being drilled, according to The Guardian.
Meanwhile, the reef is also threatened by the effects of climate change, including water acidification and rising temperatures, which cause coral bleaching. This puts it in good company—93 percent of the Great Barrier Reef in Australia now suffers from bleaching.
On the other hand, scientists say the newly discovered reef could be helpful for the very reasons climate change threatens it. It could, they say, provide insight into how biologically diverse environments survive harsh conditions-- that is, if it does survive.