Good G-reef! The oceans have been hiding a 500m tall coral reef for over 100 years
The discovery of a new deep water reef off the northern coast of Australia this week is making waves in scientific discussions. This latest reef is a mesophotic reef (found below 30 metres). Because it’s deeper and further from the shore, the reef is less susceptible to the threats of bleaching, fishing pressure and land-based pollution. Such deep reefs are still degrading, but at a slower rate than their shallow-water counterparts. Exploration at these depths has only become possible relatively recently, and so there is scope (and hope) for more discoveries of this kind.
Uncovered as part of a 12 month mapping project of Australia’s oceans, this 500m tall coral reef is located about 60 miles off the Cape York Peninsula, a wilderness area of northern Australia. At 1.5 km long and 40m below the surface at its peak, estimates suggest this beauty could be up to 20 million years old. The detached reef is not part of the Great Barrier Reef, but sits instead among 7 other reefs which were discovered in the late 1800s.
The “new” reef differs from its neighbours, however. Excitingly, the ecosystem appears to be more vibrant, with early investigations suggesting a thriving population of both fish and sharks, such as tiny hatchetfish, silvertip, and grey reef sharks. The upper section doesn’t seem to contain many hard corals, but it does have an array of sponges, sea fans and soft corals, indicating the circulation of nutrient rich water.
The discovery was made by the Schmidt Ocean Institute, using an underwater robot called “SuBastian”. This remote controlled device can collect samples and images to then be identified by the scientists. The team have said that this process will take a long time however, so it’s yet to be seen if any new species have been found. The project has already discovered several new species and what is believed to be the longest recorded sea creature, giving just a glimpse of the richness of the biodiversity of our oceans.
“Handsome” British spider rediscovered after not being seen for 21 years
At two inches (5cm) wide, the great fox-spider is one of the largest members of the wolf-spider family. It is known for its speed and agility and its eight black eyes, which give it wraparound vision. It’s a hunting spider, which means it does not use a web to catch prey. It was also last seen in 1999 – until last week, that is!
Several great fox-spider males, one female and some unidentifiable immature spiderlings were discovered by Mike Waite from the Surrey Wildlife Trust after a two-year search. Fittingly, the elusive spiders had been hiding incognito at a Ministry of Defence training ground, which can not be named for security reasons.
The patron of the British Arachnological Society, Nick Baker, described the discovery as “the most exciting thing to happen in wildlife circles for quite some time”. He said: “It’s about as handsome as a spider gets, it’s big and now it’s officially a member of the British fauna again.”
This big cat is clawing its way back from extinction in Europe
In more good animal news, after being on the verge of extinction two decades ago, the population of Portugal and Spain’s beautiful Iberian Lynx continues to increase, with numbers rising from 94 in 2002 to 855 this year, thanks to a 20-year project to reintroduce the species across the peninsula.
A recent census that used camera-traps revealed that more than 80% of the lynx population is in Spain, and 311 kittens were born on the peninsula last year. These results mean that if the current conservation efforts continue as they have been, the Iberian Lynx could be out of danger by 2040.
Miguel Ángel Simón, a biologist who spent 22 years conserving and building up lynx numbers before retiring last year, said “Today, the situation is pretty good and I think we can be optimistic and fairly calm because we haven’t just recovered the population in Andalucía, we’ve also built populations in Portugal – where the lynx was extinct – and in Extremadura and Castilla-La Mancha.”
Meow to that!
Tackling climate change good for the economy, according to new Deloitte report
A new report from Deloitte Access Economics has found that the Australian economy will lose more than $3 trillion over the next 50 years if climate change is not addressed. Ok, we know this doesn’t sound like a good news story, but bear with us.
The report’s author, Pradeep Philip, told the ABC that if warming is kept below 1.5 degrees and Australia achieved net zero carbon emissions by 2050, the potential benefit to the economy is $680 billion, generating 250,000 jobs. This growth would be achieved via new industry sectors, such as renewables, hydrogen and electric vehicles.
The report follows announcements from the Big Four banks in Australia, all of which plan to stop coal funding. Both the report and the banks’ announcements are good news, because if the people in charge won’t listen to the science when it comes to climate change, you can bet there are two things they will listen to: 1) the possibility of losing votes; and 2) the possibility of losing money.
The Federal Government had promised to achieved net zero carbon emissions by 2050, although Prime Minister Scott Morrison refused to commit to this in September, despite describing the target as “achievable”.