Far off the Texas coast there is a beautiful surprise in the Gulf of Mexico that draws divers from around the world: a stunning amount of coral coverage on undersea mountains
OFF THE COAST OF GALVESTON, Texas — Divers descending into azure waters far off the Texas coast dip below a horizon dotted with oil and gas platforms into an otherworldly landscape of undersea mountains crusted with yellow, orange and pink coral as far as the eye can see.
Some of the world's healthiest coral reefs can be found in the Gulf of Mexico, about 100 miles (160 kilometers) off the Texas coast. Sheltered in a deep, cool habitat far from shore, the reefs in the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary boast a stunning amount of coral coverage. But scientists say that like all reefs, they are fragile, and their location will only offer protection for so long in the face of a warming climate.
“To see that much coral in one place is really magnificent — an experience that most people don’t get on reefs in this day and age,” said Michelle Johnston, the acting superintendent and research coordinator for the federally protected area.
The sanctuary had some moderate bleaching this year but nothing like the devastation that hit other reefs during the summer's record-breaking heat. Still, Johnston said that's among her top concerns for the sanctuary's future. Waters that get too warm cause corals to expel their colorful algae and turn white. They can survive if temperatures fall but they are left more vulnerable to disease and may eventually die.
Florida's coral reef — the world's third-largest — experienced an unprecedented and potentially deadly level of bleaching over the summer. Derek Manzello, coordinator of the National Oceanic andRead more on abcnews.go.com