A mysterious macroalgae forest up to one meter high each, found more than 40 meters deep in the Galapagos marine reserve, keeps the experts dumbfounded, trying to decipher its composition and function in the delicate ecosystem of the Ecuadorian archipelago.
Most of these macroalgae forests are in the Arctic or Patagonia, so finding them in the Galapagos is “like finding a penguin in the tropics,” the marine ecologist in charge of the research, Salomé Buglass, told EFE.
It was in October 2018 when a routine tour to analyze underwater mountains, with a robot dragged by a long cord that allows to explore up to 200 meters deep, ended in a “very big surprise” when finding the forest of kelp (macroalgae).
“The species is not only new to the Galapagos marine reserve, but it exists between 40 and 60 meters deep, (something) that is very rare because these are algae that need photosynthesis,” said the Charles Foundation expert Darwin
The macroalgae is a species of palm tree with a stem up to a meter high and flat, long and thin leaves, which can measure a meter and a half in length, and which fork at up to 12 units on each side.
Expand A macroalgae forest, up to one meter high each, in the Galapagos Islands. Photo: Charles Darwin Foundation / EFE.
The low light that seeps into the area paints the mysterious greenish forest when, in reality, it is dark brown. Through genetic analysis, experts insisted on deciphering the forest, since ecosystems such as this tend to be a breeding ground for many species, especially fish.
“We do not know what species it is, we only know that it is new to Galapagos because something like this has never been seen here before,” said the expert to point out that they try to find out if it is a new species for science or, at least, new for the region, or perhaps unpublished for human eyes in the archipelago.