Great Barrier Reef – World’s Largest Coral Reef System

The Great Barrier Reef is home to some of the rich and complex marine ecosystem. This reef structure is formed from billions of tiny organisms called Coral Polyps that have a sac like body with emerging tentacles. The reef is located in the Coral Sea, off the coast of Queensland, Australia, separated from the coast by a channel 100 miles wide in places and over 200 feet deep.

Within the barrier reef, there are more than 2400 individual reefs of varying sizes and shapes which has been spreaded around 900 small and big islands. The reef has great diversity of sponges, anemones, fishes, crustaceans, marine worms and many other species. We will some of the important details about this reef system in below section.

Great Barrier Reef - World's Largest Coral Reef System

Great Barrier Reef – World’s Largest Coral Reef System

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  • It is known as the World’s Largest Coral Reef System.
  • It is also the World’s biggest single structure made by living organisms.
  • More than 10% of the World’s fish species inhabits around the Coral Reef System.
  • The Great Barrier reef is divided into 70 bioregions in which 30 are reef bioregions.
  • Due to its diverse ecosystem, it was selected as a World Heritage Site in 1981.
  • The reef can also be seen from the outer space.
  • The Great Barrier Reef has been long used by the local groups Aboriginal Australian and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
  • More than 1,500 fish species live on the reef, including the clownfish, red bass, red-throat emperor, and several species of snapper and coral trout. More on wikipedia.
  • There are more than 330 species of ascidians with the diameter of 1–10 cm (0.4–4 in) lives around the reef system.
  • Over 5,000 species of mollusc have been recorded on the reef, including the giant clam and various nudibranchs and cone snails.
  • The Great Barrier Reef acts as the breeding ground for Sea turtles. Atleast six turtle species has been identified which comes to the reef for breeding. These are the green sea turtle, leatherback sea turtle, hawksbill turtle, loggerhead sea turtle, flatback turtle, and the olive ridley.
  • Saltwater crocodiles live in mangrove and salt marshes on the coast near the reef.
  • More than 200 species of birds which includes white-bellied sea eagle and roseate tern visits the region around the reef for nesting.
  • The islands of Great Barrier reef supports around 2195 plant species including three of the endemic one.
  • Tourist comes from all over the world to see the majestic beauty of Great Barrier Reef. Every year tourism generates a revenue of more than AUD$3 billion in that region.
  • The management of such a large area of the Great Barrier reef is itself a complex tasks due to the overlapping State and Federal jurisdictions.
  • The Queensland government is the local authority body for natural resource management and land use planning for the islands and all the areas adjacent to the Great Barrier Reef.
  • The Coral reef and its biodiversity is more than million years old but in recent past it has undergone to severe Coral bleaching.
  • Coral bleaching is a direct impact of Climate Change. Bleaching occurs when heat stress causes corals to expel the algae that live within them. These algae is responsible for providing food and bright colors to the coral reef.
  • When algae leave the Corals, it first loses its bright color and ultimately die due to lack of food.
  • The rise in ocean temperature has become a great concern for all the marine ecological system.
  • The Great Barrier Reef alone has faced six(1998, 2002, 2006, 2016, 2017 and 2020) mass bleaching events in past few years due to warmer ocean temperatures.
  • The most deadliest bleaching event occurred in the year 2016 and 2017 which resulted in killing of almost half of the corals in the reef.
  • Every year researchers performs underwater survey to assess the bleaching event and find new ways to save the reef corals.
  • The most recent attempt in that path is a new geoengineering technique called cloud brightening. This technique will be used to cool down the unusual warmer ocean temperature.
  • In Cloud brightening process, microscopic sea water droplets sprayed into the air over reef, creating more cloud cover and shade from the sunlight. This is still is experimental phase and requires more research to proven the technology.
  • Another key threat faced by the Great Barrier Reef is the pollution and water quality in the region. It is currently on decline due to tropical flooding events from the rivers of north-eastern Australia.
  • Around 80% of the land near the Reef is used for farming including intensive cropping of sugar cane. The increased run-off of pesticides, fertilizers and other chemicals from this farming land to the reef water is further degrading the quality. This is negatively impacting the coral marine species around the reef.
  • There is a considerable effort required to rejuvenate and restore the biodiversity of Great Barrier Reef.

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