New coral reefs and hills were discovered in Lónsdjúp, off Iceland’s eastern coast, during a submarine research expedition undertaken by the Icelandic Marine Research Institute at the end of last month.
From a previous Icelandic Marine Research Institute expedition. Photo by Páll Stefánsson.
According to Steinunn Hilma Ólafsdóttir, an expert in demersal organisms, these are cold water corals in two different colors, found within a 40-square-kilometer area at a depth of 200 to 500 meters. No sunlight reaches the corals so they filter their nutrition from ocean currents, Morgunbladid reports.
“What makes these so special is that they take a very long time to grow; it takes a coral reef several hundred thousands of years to develop and in that time it creates a special habitat for other organisms,” Ólafsdóttir explained.
Corals are very sensitive organisms and their existence has widely been jeopardized through demersal fishing. The coral areas that have previously been discovered around Iceland are protected as nature reserves and Ólafsdóttir said that the goal is for the recently-discovered corals to be preserved too.
The Marine Research Institute’s submarine will study the coral reefs further in the coming weeks.