Campus News

Unusual environments

Coral reefs are generally associated with oceans, but a team of scientists, including Patricia Yager, a professor in UGA’s School of Marine Programs, recently discovered a coral reef system in the plume of the Amazon River, where it empties into the ocean.

“The coolest thing about these reefs is that there are corals living at least part of their year in the dark, below the turbid Amazon plume,” Yager told Live Science. “We didn’t expect that, and we are still trying to understand how their metabolism works.”

When river water meets the ocean, it changes factors like salinity levels, pH, sedimentation, temperature, light penetration and nutrient availability, which is usually unfavorable for reef growth.

In particular, scientists are looking at how reef animals thrive in this environment.

“They also live in a fast current (North Brazil Current) that likely keeps them from getting too covered with mud, but it may also deliver food particles at a high rate, so the reef animals can suspension feed,” she said. “Whether their food comes from the river plume is still to be investigated.”