Mar 21, 2019 | Updated: 02:42 PM EDT

Scientists Discover the First Coral Reef in Italy With Unusual Features

Mar 14, 2019 09:25 AM EDT

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low- light coral reefs
(Photo : DesignNPrint)

Along the Italian coast in the Adriatic Sea, the first ever coral reef in the country has been recently discovered. Scientists say that the coral reef is colorful and full of life. Still, only a few others on the planet are of the same structure.

In the March 2019 issue of the journal Scientific Reports, the discovery of Italy's first reef has been reported by a group of researchers from the University of Mari Aldo Moro.

Scientists have classified the reef to be a mesophotic coral ecosystem as it exists and thrives in conditions where there are only low levels of light. Most coral reefs thrive in sun-soaked areas and need photosynthetic algae to produce food as nourishment for the corals. This is known as a symbiotic relationship. 

This coral reef, however, is made up of stony corals which are actually "non-symbiotic scleractinians". To this type of corals, the floating organic matter is their source of nourishment. 

The Italian reef is not as colorful as the tropical reefs such as the Great Barrier Reef. Tropical reefs get its pigment from the algae that live inside the corals. Since this barrier is in a dim setting the madrepores, the stony corals forming the reef, manage without the presence of algae.

An argument is going around the scientists on whether Italy's barrier should be considered as a "unique environment" because of its unusual features or not as it has similarities with the reefs in the Red Sea and the Mediterranean Sea.

This newly-discovered coral reef stretches along Italy's coast for a length of 2.5 kilometers. That's 1.5 miles passing by Puglia's ever-famous tourist destination, Monopoli. The Italian reef is at 30 meters to 55 meters in depth, 98 feet to 180 feet. Still, in this dim setting, the reef is nothing short of a remarkable sight, as reports say.

Coral reefs are indeed worth diving for that's why usually, where there are coral reefs, there are also tourist spots. However, coral reefs around the world are now in great danger. First, the problem of pollution is still to be figured out and second, the rising temperature in the oceans is causing more frequent bleaching among coral reefs. Bleaching is the term used when the algae would leach out if the corals and the corals lose their vibrant colors.

Italy's Regional Council of Puglia is now coming up with plans to declare the area, where the new reef is located, as a new marine protected area. This will protect the fragile reef ecosystem which is a biodiversity hotspot as well

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