"We discovered areas that can be compared to the sequoia forests that exist in the United States", revealed Telmo Morato, a researcher from the Okeanos Institute, University of the Azores, during a press conference held in the city of Horta, Faial island, to present the results of an oceanographic campaign carried out on board the Dutch ship "Pelagia".
According to the Azorean researcher, the Azorean sea has black coral forests similar to the North American sequoia forests, according to the "first preliminary results" resulting from the analyses carried out during the international research campaign, carried out in the seas of the region.
"We still have a few months of work ahead of us to process the samples collected during this campaign", explained Telmo Morato, recalling that "an hour of video at sea" normally corresponds to "a day's work on land".
According to this Okeanos researcher, the first analyses demonstrate that these areas of the deep sea, associated to the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, are areas of "great productivity, which house great densities of organisms and a very large biodiversity".
"We discovered and found things that we did not think we would find in the Azores at this time, such as the large black coral gardens, which can live for several thousand years," stressed that researcher, considering that this project "has been very beneficial for the oceanographic community".
The Minister of the Sea, Ricardo Serrão Santos, also present at the press conference, believes that "it is important to protect these habitats", namely the "black coral gardens, in this part of the Atlantic", which he considered to be "symbols" of the existing biodiversity in the region's seas.
"It is necessary to invest more and more in oceanic research", insisted the governor, adding that the aim of these scientific projects is to ensure that the oceans remain "healthy".
The scientific expedition took place between 18 May and 2 June, along the Mid-Atlantic Dorsal, in the Azores region, and included bathymetric surveys, image capturing with the mission of mapping the seabed, identifying new areas that fit the definition of vulnerable marine ecosystems and determining their environmental status.
The oceanographic expedition, called "Eurofleets+ IMAR: Integrated assessment of the distribution of Vulnerable Marine Ecosystems along the Mid-Atlantic Dorsal in the Azores region", concludes that this area of the archipelago "may support more life and diversity" than previous studies had indicated.