Good news for ocean-lovers: a massive coral reef, presumed dead and located within a protected area, has mysteriously started showing signs of new life.
Halfway between Hawaii and Fiji, Coral Castles had been devastated by unusually warm water. Researchers examined the site in 2009 and 2012, finding little improvement in the coral colonies.
But in 2015, a team of marine biologists again analyzed the reef, and were at once ecstatic and concerned; the reef was recovering, seemingly on its own, but they weren’t sure if the coral would survive what would be the hottest year on record.
In August 2016, a Massachusetts-based research team again explored the reef, and found a landscape filled with vibrant colors. The reef was definitely rebounding.
“Everything looked just magnificent,” said Dr. Jan Witting, the expedition’s chief scientist.
At a time when global climate change is destroying the world’s great reefs, it’s exciting to see nature recovering. Still, no one really knows how or why the reef is able to repair itself. To that end, scientists don’t even know what a reef’s healing process actually looks like.
Researchers hope that this isn’t only an isolated situation. By collecting data on Coral Castles, they may be able to create a formula for restoring other reefs across the world.
“There’s a recipe book that can be developed out of what we’re learning here,” Dr. Witting said. “You need to make a strong case that this can work before anyone else will try it.”
This story originally appeared in the New York Times.