An eel nestling among the red algae of the reefImage source, OceanX
Image caption, The reef is mostly made of hard red algae, providing an attractive habitat for marine life such as this moray eel

There are plans to drill for oil near the mouth of the Amazon. Researchers say the reef could hold many unknown species of medicine or science.

The Amazon reef lies in deep water and is sometimes hidden by the muddy waters of the river.

Since it was discovered, it has been little studied because of its depth and strong currents.

There are things that we don't know yet, according to César Cordeiro, a professor at the University of Northern Rio de Janeiro.

It's possible that there are only a few species in that area.

There are signs of anti-cancer properties in a sponge being studied at the University of So Paolo.

The leader of the reef's discovery says there is great potential for economic gain with the study and protection.

We have an immediate need for cheap energy, but how much do we sacrifice for the future?

Plans by Petrobras to drill for oil near the reef could cause an oil leak that would ruin the environment.

In the event of a leak, Petrobras plans to conduct a test to learn how oil would be dispersed.

Exploration wells could follow 160 km from the shore, but much closer to the reef, if that goes well.

A map showing the reef and the oil concession blocks

The Environment Minister of Brazil, Joaquim Leite, has said that it is possible to explore for oil and protect the environment in the area.

One of the strongest currents on the planet can be found here. He says that these are environmental conditions that challenge any engineering work.

The sun provides a lot of energy for corals to grow.

This is not the same. It is deeper and gloomier due to the fact that it is composed of hard redalgae that are capable of carrying out photosynthesis in low light conditions.

The blue spectrum of light is used by the redalga that use it as a filter.

Fish swimming in the gloomy conditions of the reefImage source, OceanX
Image caption, The reef is deep and lies below murky water flowing out of the Amazon

Large solid structures can grow over time because of the chalk-like substance in the cell walls of thealgae.

At least 70 species of fish, shrimp, and lobster are thought to be in the area of the reef. Thousands of families on the Brazilian coast rely on these for food and income, and some of them are worried about Petrobras's plans.

"They will go further out, and in our small boats we will not be able to go after them," she said.

There is an oil spill on the coast of northern Brazil. The tourism industry was halted after tons of thick black crude began washing up. The biggest market for local fish disappeared overnight. Carlos Pinto of the seaworkers' union says that other buyers stopped buying because they were afraid of being contaminated.

A boy walks out of the sea tapuama beach located in the city of Cabo de Santo Agostinho, Pernambuco state, BrazilImage source, Getty Images
Image caption, Oil washed up along Brazil's northern coast in 2019

A group of people from the fishing community in Oiapoque met with Petrobras on November 8th.

She says it seemed to be ready made answers. They said it was too far from the coast. The fishermen said they were against the drilling, but they didn't say anything.

In order to clarify doubts and expectations, Petrobras is holding meetings with affected communities.

There are oil discoveries along the coast of countries to the north-eastern part of the country.

Half of Petrobras' $6 billion exploration budget will be spent on Brazil's northern coast over the next five years. The plan to drill near the reef may not be supported by the incoming government.

His party's spokeswoman on the environment has indicated her opposition, but the last time he was in government, he relied on the revenue from oil finds in the southern part of the country to fund social programmes.

Fishermen photographed near OiapoqueImage source, Rede Abrolhos, F Moraes and R Moura
Image caption, The reef helps to ensure an abundance of fish on Brazil's north coast

One of the benefits of the reef is its diversity, but also other benefits, as shown by the professors.

It provides a more sustainable source of income.

People will have to find another source of income if they cannot fish. Prof. Moura asked. How about hunting, opening of pastures, migration to forest areas.

It works as a carbon sink.

Prof Cordeiro says that the calcium carbonate in the hard cell walls of the algae helps to remove carbon from the atmosphere.

  • Amazon rainforest
  • Coral reefs
  • Brazil
  • Environment