Aug 15, 2018 | Updated: 01:42 PM EDT

Reef Oasis Found in Depths of Murky Iraqi Waters

Feb 20, 2015 09:52 PM EST

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While growing climate changes and ocean acidification pose particular threats to coral reef species around the world, it appears that researchers may have good news on the horizon. While many reefs have been well-documented and researched, a new study recently published in the journal Scientific Reports reveals that new reefs may be right under our noses, and they be far out of the tropics.

Researchers with Germany's Institute for Geology Scientific Diving Center discovered the first known coral reef just off of the coast Iraq, and lead author of the study Thomas Pohl and his colleagues are saying that the reef is flourishing in spite of rather abnormal conditions.

Turbulent waters at the mouth of the Shatt al-Arab River in southeastern Iraq, where the coral reef lies, are a major challenge for the fragile reef ecosystem. And more than that, chilly waters make the discovery a strange one at that, as the seawater temperatures often range around 50 degrees Fahrenheit.

"We were entirely surprised to find a living coral reef under such harsh conditions" Pohl says.

The researchers are eager to begin in-depth studies of the new reef, and say that its discovery is unusual, as well as, very surprising. As the waters are often polluted with oil and are sediment loaded, the reef is hard to find and researchers are excited to have uncovered the hidden treasure.

"Usually, extensive coral reefs do not typically develop under conditions where nutrient and suspended sediment concentrations are acutely or chronically very high" Pohl says. "The discovery of the reef oasis in the turbid coastal waters of Iraq will stimulate the interest of governmental agencies, environmental organizations, as well as of the international scientific community working on the fundamental understanding of coral marine ecosystems and global climate today."

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