Today’s Image of the Day from NASA Earth Observatory features a stunning coral reef on the south coast of New Caledonia. This is the most common type of reef, known as a fringing reef, which grows seaward directly from the shore.
The image was captured by an astronaut onboard the International Space Station (ISS) as the spacecraft orbited over the southwestern Pacific Ocean.
“The reef separates the light blue shallows of the lagoon from the darker, deeper Pacific Ocean. Tan hues tinge the lagoon where sediment flows in from uplands to the north-northeast,” reports NASA.
“Situated about 1,300 kilometers (800 miles) east of Australia, New Caledonia is a French overseas territory comprised of Grande Terre and other smaller islands. The archipelago spans a land area of about 19,000 square kilometers (7,300 square miles) and is home to almost 300,000 people.”
Collectively, the reefs of Grande Terre and the other islands of New Caledonia span a length of about 1,000 miles. According to NASA, the reef system includes coral islands, double reef barriers, and offshore reefs.
“New Caledonia’s reefs are home to an estimated 9,300 marine species and almost 500 species of coral. The lagoons promote biodiversity by supporting large predators (including sharks), nesting seabirds, mangroves, and seagrasses,” says NASA.
“In 2008, the reefs and lagoons were added to the UNESCO World Heritage List because of their ecological value and geographic uniqueness.”
New Caledonia is considered one of the world’s most critically endangered hotspots. The country has an extraordinarily diverse plant community that includes more than 3,200 native species.
Image Credit: NASA Earth Observatory