Coral reef, deemed a “climate refuge”, discovered off the coast of Kenya and Tanzania

A coral reef, found off the coast of East Africa, has become a sanctuary for marine life, which with its cool water is helping to protect ocean life from the rising temperatures of the climate crisis, and allowing biodiversity to thrive.

The coral reef, which was recently discovered by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), is believed to have been formed thousands of years ago from meltwaters running off glaciers on Mount Kilimanjaro and the Usambara mountains at the end of the last ice age.

A study by the WCS shows that while warming waters may devastate surrounding reefs, this area could become an incredibly important sanctuary where marine species big and small will flock to find refuge from climate change.

The reef complex is located in a rare ocean cool spot that is helping to protect large populations of corals and marine mammals from the devastating impacts of climate change.

The region is a hotspot for conservation but has historically suffered from destructive fishing practices that were destroying reefs. Future plans for coastal development, including a port in northern Tanzania serving a new oil pipeline, and continued unsustainable fishing by national and international fleets, mean the hotspot may still be in peril.

As waters in the Indian Ocean continue to experience more frequent and intense heat spells, this refuge could prove increasingly important as a habitat for East Africa’s unique marine fauna, including threatened sharks and rays. Pods of spinner dolphins congregate in these waters.

Dr. Tim McClanahan, WCS coral scientist, said: “Coral sanctuaries are regions where reefs have the best chance to survive climate change. Scientists are scouring the world’s oceans to find and protect them. This area off the coast of Tanzania and Kenya is a small but vibrant basin of marine biodiversity.”

If well protected, this key transboundary marine ecosystem will remain a jewel of biodiversity for the entire East African coast, according to WCS researchers.

Image Credit: Michael Markovina/WCS

WCS

Rosa Medea is Life & Soul Magazine’s Chief. She writes about lifestyle including sustainable and green living. 

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