The Great Barrier Reef is one of the world’s great natural wonders. The Great Barrier Reef is the world’s largest reef system composed of over 2,900 individual reefs and 900 islands stretching for over 2,600 kilometres over an area of approximately 344,400 square kilometres. The reef is located in the Coral Sea, off the coast of Queensland in north-east Australia. Because of its natural beauty, both below and above the water’s surface, the Great Barrier Reef has become one of the worlds most sought after tourist destinations.
The Great Barrier Reef is one of the wonders of the natural world – it is the world’s largest coral reef ecosystem, and pulling away from it, and viewing it from a greater distance, you can understand why. The Great Barrier Reef is the only living organic collective visible from Earth’s orbit.
The Great Barrier Reef is blessed with the breathtaking beauty of the world’s largest coral reef. The reef contains an abundance of marine life and comprises of over 3000 individual reef systems and coral cays and literally hundreds of picturesque tropical islands with some of the worlds most beautiful sun-soaked, golden beaches.
The Great Barrier Reef is a breeding area for humpback whales, migrating from the Antarctic and is also the habitat of a few endangered species including the Dugong (Sea Cow) and large Green Sea Turtle
Swimming with the fish and admiring the colours of the coral is a must for any holiday to the Great Barrier Reef. Outer reef scuba diving and island day trips are some of the more common pastimes on the reef along with scenic flights and rainforest tours to Kuranda and the Daintree Rainforest.
The ideal environment for coral is shallow warm water where there is a lot of water movement, plenty of light, where the water is salty and low in nutrients. There are many different types of coral, some are slow growing and live to be hundreds of years old, others are faster growing. The colours of coral are created by algae. Only live coral is coloured. Dead coral is white.
The weather over the Great Barrier Reef varies a fair bit due to the long length of the reef. Stretching over 2500km down the coast of Queensland, the majority of the reef is in tropical and sub-tropical regions. The northern part of the reef is in a tropical climate with hot wet summers with heaps of rain and humidity. The southern end the Great Barrier Reef is sub-tropical with milder summers and far less humidity.
The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority considers the greatest threat to the Great Barrier Reef to be climate change, causing ocean warming which increases coral bleaching. Climate change has implications for other forms of reef life—some fish’s preferred temperature range leads them to seek new habitat, thus increasing chick mortality in predatory seabirds. Climate change will also affect the population and sea turtle’s available habitat.
One of the greatest dangers to the habitat is the Crown of Thorns starfish. Since the 1960s the Crown of Thorns10 has been destroying the corals which make up the reef. Crown of Thorns outbreaks go through a series of stages which can take from 1 to 15 years. The impact of a Crown of Thorns infestation on sea and bird life can be significant as the corals die.