Great Barrier Reef
The Great Barrier Reef is the largest coral reef in the world. It sits off the northeast coast of Australia, spanning nearly 2,300 km along the mainland shoal. The reef is 2 km wide at the northern end and about 150 km wide at the southern end. This underwater work of art is one of Australia’s most famous and colorful attractions, attracting tourists from all over the world every year.
The structure of the Great Barrier Reef is made up of billions of tiny organisms known as coral polyps. It is the only result of organisms on earth that can be seen from space! The largest coral ecosystem on our planet has over 2,900 individual coral reefs and 900 islands in the Coral Sea. The reef covers 348,698 km² (by comparison, the UK covers 244,820 km²). A record number of informative nature films have been made about this huge marine park.
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Video: Great Barrier Reef
The National Trust has named the Great Barrier Reef as Queensland’s calling card. Tourism is an important part of economic activity in the region, generating more than $3 billion annually.
Hotels and infrastructure have been built on the major islands. These places – the embodiment of the idea of “heaven on earth”: a unique nature, excellent climate, amazingly comfortable water and air temperature, white sandy beaches, comfortable hotels and friendly service staff. This is the perfect place for lovers of active recreation. You can, for example, rent snorkeling equipment and take advantage of diving instructors. Excellent pastime will be boat trips on yachts and catamarans, fishing and all kinds of water sports. There’s also plenty to do on land, including miniature golf, go-karting, visiting the exotic Australian animal park, horse and bike rides. Hamilton Island even has an airport. The small island of Bedarra will appeal to those who want to relax in silence and hide from prying eyes. No more than 32 people can stay here at a time, because there are only 16 villas. You can also stay at the resorts of Dunk, Brampton, Hatzman, Keppel, Haimam, Heron, Magnetic, Orpheus, and Green. But there are islands on the Great Barrier Reef that have never been visited by humans.
The Great Barrier Reef Panorama
Great Barrier Reef Ecosystem
It is almost impossible to describe the richness of the underwater world found on the Great Barrier Reef!
The species diversity is astounding! More than 1500 species of fish, 4000 mollusks, over 200 species of birds… find their home in the marine park.
Reef community includes coelenterates (polyps, jellyfish), many species of mollusks (gastropods, bivalves, cephalopods, etc.), sea turtles, snakes, worms, echinoderms (sea urchins, stars, snake-tails), bottom and free-floating fish, and marine mammals (dolphins, dugongs).
All this whirlpool of life exists under the strict laws of nature and natural selection, where everyone can be both predator and prey.
Sharks are also of genuine interest. The Great Barrier Reef is home to a wide variety of marine predators that are “coral garden sanitarians. On the bottom, squatinoids, carpet sharks, multitooth sharks, collar sharks and other species of bottom sharks prey. Here you can see nurse sharks, leopard sharks, feline sharks, spiny representatives of these cartilaginous fish. In the water column, among coral thickets, there are numerous reef sharks, catching and eating small reef animals and fish. There are large sharks – sand, hammerhead, lemon, and even white. Divers, swimmers and surfers should be especially careful in these areas.
There is also the famous whale shark! It’s listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the biggest fish on the planet. But you should not be afraid of it: the “sea monster” feeds only on plankton. Dolphins and killer whales constantly hunt near the reef. Their victims are often humpback whales and minke whales. Breeding of humpback whales occurs near the Great Barrier Reef from June to August. On the southern islands of the reef, sea turtles lay their eggs, which are currently threatened with extinction.
All the “tasty” sea creatures – huge octopuses, squids, lobsters, lobsters, also live on the Great Barrier Reef. And lately, there have been truly huge populations of crown-of-thorns starfish. Today, this starfish is the greatest threat to the Great Barrier Reef. In a couple of months, it can destroy large numbers of corals. A graveyard of coral forms where these stars, which can kill even an adult with their venom, live. So far, no really effective methods to combat the “crown of thorns,” and, unfortunately, the destruction of entire reefs occurs more and more often.
In addition to sea creatures on coral islands there are more than 200 species of birds. As for flora, it is very poorly represented. In the area of the reef barely scraped 40 species of plants that can survive in conditions where even the groundwater is characterized by high salt content. But this drawback is more than off-set by the unique aquatic fauna.
Despite its size and massiveness, the Great Barrier Reef is quite vulnerable. As its inhabitants are an integral interconnected part of the ecosystem, the population of one species of creatures should sharply decrease or increase – the reef will be in serious danger. This was the case in the 1970s and 1980s, repeated today, when the number of crown-of-thorns starfish increased dramatically.According to a study published in October 2012 by the National Academy of Sciences, the Great Barrier Reef has lost more than half of the coral polyps that make up its structure since 1985.
Another serious problem has been massive coral bleaching due to a dramatic warming of the water. Algae living within the coral itself are dying off and the symbiosis is breaking down. Corals are replacing the dead algae that give them their bright, attractive coloring.
The Great Barrier Reef is the eighth wonder of the world, admirable and worthy of care. It supports life and biodiversity of living organisms, thanks to which it was selected as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1981. Much of the reef is protected by the Marine National Park, which helps limit the harm from the results of human activities – fishing, pollution, tourism.
The Great Barrier Reef has attracted people since ancient times. About 10,000 years ago, Australian Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders settled on coral islands.
In 1768, French navigator Louis de Bougainville discovered the Great Barrier Reef during an exploratory expedition, but he did not claim the rights to its territory to France. Thus, the discoverer of the Great Barrier Reef was the famous explorer James Cook. On June 11, 1770, his ship HM Bark Endeavour ran aground on the reef and sustained considerable damage. The approaching tide saved the ship and allowed it to continue sailing. The incident left a deep mark on the navigator’s soul; in his diary Cook wrote: “. The perils we had previously avoided were but a fraction of the danger of being driven out upon the reefs, where in a moment there would have been nothing left of the ship.” Continuing northward, James Cook found a navigable passage near Lizard Island and was able to put the ship onto the high seas.
Many ships, maneuvering between the coral islands, were wrecked. But the research continued, as routes to the major trading cities of India and China and the shortest route from the Pacific to the Indian Ocean passed through the Torres Strait. For decades sailors argued over which route was safer: the outer route (through the Coral Sea with passage through the reef) or the inner route (between the shore and the reef). One of the most famous shipwrecks on the Great Barrier Reef was HMS Pandora, which sank on August 29, 1791. In 1815 Charles Jeffreys became the first man to sail a ship along the entire Barrier Reef from the land side. But it wasn’t until the 1840s, after much of the Great Barrier Reef had been explored and mapped in detail, that this route became safer. In the 19th century, scientists began a detailed study of the reef. At the same time business people arrived here hoping to realize their commercial potential. By the end of the 19th century pearls and trepangs from the Great Barrier Reef were being exported to London, Singapore and Hong Kong. The famous French scientist-traveler Jacques-Yves Cousteau also worked hard here, off the eastern shores of Australia.
Visiting this magnificent marine park, tourists get into a real, colorful, unforgettable fairy tale, which is impossible to convey in photos! We hope that the Great Barrier Reef can be preserved as an ecosystem and our descendants will be able to enjoy this natural masterpiece for decades to come.
Top 25: Interesting facts about the Great Barrier Reef you’ll want to hear about
A couple of months ago, Outside Magazine published an obituary to the Great Barrier Reef, telling readers that the iconic coral reef system “died after a long illness.” The good news is that the article was greatly exaggerated: the Great Barrier Reef is not yet dead.
The bad news, however, is that the reef is in serious danger and may in fact disappear if we don’t help it recover. The Great Reef is one of our planet’s largest and most spectacular natural features, and we should definitely do all we can to preserve it.
To raise awareness about the world’s largest coral reef and the challenges it faces, we decided to compile this list of 25 interesting facts about the Great Barrier Reef that you’ll want to hear about.
25. The world’s largest coral system, the Great Barrier Reef, consists of more than 2,900 individual coral reefs and 900 islands.
24. Covering an area of about 345,000 km², the Great Barrier Reef is larger than most countries: this coral reef could rank 63rd – between Germany and the Republic of Congo. It is also larger than most American states – only Alaska, Texas, California and Montana are larger.
23. The Great Barrier Reef formed on the east coast of the continent of Australia during the Miocene epoch, about 25 million years ago.
22. As the world’s largest formation created by living organisms, the Great Barrier Reef is so large that it can be seen from space.
21. The reef is a biodiversity hotspot: there are over 1500 species of fish, 215 species of birds, over 3000 species of mollusks, 6 of 7 species of sea turtles in the world, 30 species of whales and dolphins, one of the most important dugong populations in the world and many other representatives of flora and fauna.
20. The reef is under serious external pressures on the environment, including climate change, pollution, overfishing, oil spills and more. These threats have led to massive coral bleaching. Scientists estimate that over 93% of coral reefs are now suffering from coral bleaching, putting the Great Barrier Reef at risk of extinction.
19. CNN has named the Great Barrier Reef one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World.
18. James Cook, the famous British explorer, navigator, cartographer and captain of the Royal Navy, ran aground on the Great Barrier Reef on HM Bark Endeavour on June 11, 1770. The ship suffered considerable damage, but Cook was able to repair the seagoing vessel and make it out of the area.
17. The Great Barrier Reef has long been known and used by Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who have lived in the region for tens of thousands of years. The Australian government even recognizes these tribal groups as “traditional owners of the reef.”
16. The Great Barrier Reef is threatened by the crown-of-thorns starfish, or acanthaster. This large starfish with numerous sharp needles feeds on polyps of reef-forming corals. The natural predators of crown-of-thorns are often overfished, leading to uncontrolled and rapid growth of this starfish population.
15. There is a wreck beneath the reef. The passenger ship SS Yongala was destroyed by a tropical storm around March 23, 1911. As a result of the shipwreck, all 122 people on board were killed. The wreck is now home to numerous sea creatures.
14. Much of the reef is protected by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. Founded in 1975 by the Australian government, the national park helps protect coral reefs and limit the impact of human use.
13. While the average depth of the coastal waters of the Great Barrier Reef varies around 35 meters, the slope from the continental shelf descends to a depth of more than 2 kilometers.
12. the hard corals that act as the base of the Great Barrier Reef grow at a tiny rate of only 1.5 cm per year.
11. In just 27 years, between 1985 and 2012, the Great Barrier Reef lost more than half of its corals.
10. In late 2014, Google launched Google Underwater Street View, including 2,300 km of the Great Barrier Reef in 3D. The photos were taken by special cameras that rotate 360 degrees and take pictures every 3 seconds.
9. The Great Barrier Reef is so complex and has such a diverse ecosystem that its incredible richness of species can only be rivaled by the rainforest.
8. In 1981, UNESCO declared the Great Barrier Reef a World Heritage Site, stating that it is “the greatest natural beauty above and below the water, representing some of the most spectacular scenery on Earth.”
7. Extremely popular with tourists, the Great Barrier Reef brought in $6.4 billion in tourism revenue in 2013, creating jobs for more than 64,000 people.
6. One proposed solution for how to preserve the Great Barrier Reef is to move it to a more favorable location. One 5-ton part of the coral reef was successfully relocated to Dubai in 2008. However, moving a coral reef system the size of a large country is technically impossible.
5. Every November, corals in the reef engage in a week-long mass reproduction, releasing huge numbers of sperm and eggs. Called “reef sex” popularly, this mass spawning is believed to be related to lunar phases and water temperatures.
4. The Australian government has invested $2 billion in a project called the Reef 2050 Plan to improve water quality, reduce flushing and eradicate the crown-of-thorns starfish.
3. A reef fee of $6 per day is payable by any coral reef visitor over 4 years old. The money goes to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority for ongoing efforts to protect the fragile ecosystem.
2. Coral reefs help improve the quality of the surrounding water. They act like a filter that draws out what floats in the water. That’s why the water around the Great Barrier Reef is so crystal clear.
1. An 8,000 m² coral reef has more fish species than bird species in all of North America.