Greenpeace has just released the first ever pictures of a huge coral reef system discovered in the Amazon last year. Located at the mouth of the Amazon River, the Amazon Reef is a 9,500 sq km system of corals, sponges and rhodoliths.

The sponge and coralline algal reef was discovered last year by a team of experts, including several oceanographers, during a research expedition off the Brazilian coast.

Here are some amazing pictures:

Why is the reef important?

This reef system is important for many reasons, including the fact that it has unique characteristics regarding use and availability of light, and physicochemical water conditions,” researcher Nils Asp, from the Federal University of Para, said in a statement.

“It has a huge potential for new species, and it is also important for the economic well-being of fishing communities along the Amazonian coastal zone.”

However, the reef is already at risk from oil spills 

Oil companies are closing in with a reckless plan to drill for oil nearby and once they get approval from the Brazil government, these companies could start drilling within months.

Any oil spill could devastate this amazing place, harming wildlife and ruining local people’s livelihoods. Greenpeace has already started a campaign to protect the reef from exploitation.

(All data and pictures sourced from Greenpeace)