Fragile Eco-systems

The Great Barrier Reef by Rahul

Classification of the Great Barrier Reef

The Great Barrier Reef is one of the most popular, diverse and largest structure ever to be built by living creatures. This imitable assembly of living organisms has the highest concentration of fauna and flora species in the world, ranging from: the infamous Great White Shark to the peaceful coral; and as a result of that it is the most important and prominent tourism source for the Australian economy. But it has a significant amount of threats or dangers whichmake it one of the most famous fragile eco-systems in the world. The name of the Great Barrier Reef comes from being the world's most enormous coral barrier reef. The Great Barrier Reef isn't one reef like it name implies, it is made up of approximately 2,900 individual reefs. it is 500,000 years old yet its modern structure formed only 8000 years old.


Location of the Great Barrier Reef

The location of the Great Barrier Reef is 15-150km off the North-Eastern coat of Queensland in the Coral Sea. It is approximately 344,000km^2 (133,000miles^2), about the size of 70 million football fields. It streches from cape York Pensula to Lady Elliot Island, a distance of over 3000km down the shoreline. The co-ordinates range from 10° 40' 55"S, 145° 00' 04"E at the upper-most tip to 29° 29' 54"S, 154° 00' 04"E at the bottom-most base. The Great Barrier Reef has 3 regions; they include: The Northern Region which is deeper than 30m, the Central Region which is 30-60m deep and the Southern Region which is less than 60m deep.

The Flora of the Great Barrier Reef

The Flora of the Great Barrier Reef is the most unique and bio-diverse. This rich assortment of flora ranges from fasinating mangroves to extraordinary seagrass to vital algae. The seagrass in the Great Barrier Reef are found in the coastal, estaurine and deep waters. Usually the seagrass lies 10m deep but some have been sighted to have been 60m deep. Seagrass takes up approximately 13% of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area which amounts to 6000km^2 of shallow-water seagrass and 40000km^2 of deep-water seagrass. The most common species of seagrass are: Halophila and Halodule. From Cape York to Cairns, the Halophila species are the most common; from Cairns to Bowen the species Halodule and Halophila are the most common; from Bowen to Yeppoon, the species Zostera is the most common and the area south of Yeppoon, the species Zostera, Halophila and Halodule are the most common. The seagrass that have adapted to deep-water need to adapt to different water clarity, propagule dispersal, nutrient supply and water currents. The deep-water seagrass are usually located between Princess Charlotte Bay and Cairns. These seagrass are a food source for a variety of animals such as the Green Turtle and the Dugong. The seagrass is vital for the dugong's survival; it needs to be kept at exactly the right quality and quantity. Although the seagrass is seemingly irrelevant, it is actually one of the most important parts in the reef as is marine algae.


The marine algae are the primary producers of the Great Barrier Reef. There are many different species of algae with many different relationships with other plants and animals. Some of these relations include: bio-erosion, coral structure, construction and being and abode for other animals. There are 629 species of algae in the Great Barrier Reef. These include 323 species of red algae, 195 species of brown algae and 111 species of green algae. Algae are treated like plants as a result of being photosynthetic, which means that they can absorb sunlight and trigger a transformation that changes it into sugar. Algae are one of the most vital part of the Great Barrier Reef. Mangroves are the Great Barrier Reef's most unique trees. Their main relation is to filter the water before letting it pass into the oceans and house many other animals . There are 39 species of mangroves; about 95% are located along the border of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area, which amount to 2070km^2. The reproduction of mangroves is very unique, they drop seeds into the water and when the seeds find a suitable place for growing, they plant themselves there. All in all the flora of the Great Barrier Reef is an important part of it because without it the Great Barrier Reef would have perished a long time ago.





Fauna of the Great Barrier Reef

One of the Great Barrier Reef's main reasons for its fame is that is that it has the most extensive multiplicity of fauna in the world. It contains 30 species of dolphin, whale porpoise (an animal similar to a dolphin) and seal, and approximately 22 species of birds. The Great Barrier Reef has 6 out of 7 species of sea turtle in the world. It has the greatest population of dugongs on the globe as well as having 630 species of echinoderm. It has approximately 1625 species of fish and 1300 species of crustaceans. The Great Barrier Reef has 133 species of sharks and rays and it has more than 100 species of jellyfish. It has 40 species of sea anemone and 720 species of sea squirts. There are 3000 species of molluscs and 1 species of crocodile in the Great Barrier Reef. There are 14 species of sea-snake and 450 species of hard coral. The coral is 8000 years old. The new coral plant themselves on top of dead coral and grow 1-1.5 cm per annum. They need to be in waters with temperatures ranging from 21 °C and 38°C to survive. One of its most formidable predator is the Crown of Thorns sea-star which can annihilate entire colonies of coral. There are 27 species that are currently classified as endangered or below. 7 marine reptiles: Flat-back. Green, Hawksbill, Leatherback, Loggerhead and Olive-Ridley turtle and salt water (estuarine) crocodile; 6 marine mammals: Blue, Fin, Humpback, and Sei whales, dugong and the sub-Antarctic fur seal; 6 shark species: Spear tooth, White, Grey Nurse, Whale sharks and Fresh-water and Green sawfish; and 8 sea bird species: Grey-headed, Sooty, Wandering albatrosses, Herald, Southern and Northern Giant Petrel, and Little Tern and Red-tailed Tropic bird. Ultimately the Great Barrier Reef has the most breath-taking and bio diverse fauna in any Eco-system in the world, and it is that that makes it one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world.




Tourism in the Great Barrier Reef

The Great Barrier Reef is one of the most important tourist attractions in Australia. Approximately 6.1 million tourists visit the Great Barrier Reef per annum. This generates up to $2 billion for the Australian economy. It has a fascinating history dating back to 1890 when Green Island was a popular place for cruises until, in the 1930's tourist resorts were built at Green Island and Heron Island. In the 1970's there was a balanced development in tourist activity, mostly at Green Island and Whitsundays. At the close of the 1970's there were more advanced transportation created so that a day trip was lengthened to 15-20 nautical miles. In the 1980's Marine Park tourism was increased by 30% per year. By the 1980-90's there were more links to the Great Barrier Reef to aid with the immense increase of reef tourism. There is even an international airport at Cairns. There is a very big difference tourism from 1890 to today. Today you can go snorkelling, scuba diving, fishing (only in certain areas) and you can go into glass-bottomed boats and semi-submersibles. There are approximately 730-820 operators and 1500 boat to aid with the immense amount of tourism. To sum up the Great Barrier Reef is the most important tourist destination to the Australian economy and it has an interesting history of how tourism in the Great Barrier Reef came to be how it is today.


Threats or Dangers to the Great Barrier Reef

The Great Barrier Reef is the most diverse and beautiful coral reef in the world; but sadly it's many threats or dangers transformed the seemingly impenetrable reef into one of the most fragile eco-systems on the planet. There are many threats or dangers that have set this beautiful reef on the brink of extinction but the capital danger is global warming. Global warming can cause the pH level in the water to decrease. As a result of that the water will be highly acidic. Due to global warming the Great Barrier Reef has already lost half of its coral. Charlie Veron (chief scientist at the Australian Institue of Marine Science) stated that if this continues for the next fifty years then the coral will be " coral skeletons bathed in algal slime." Another major danger danger is bleaching which is caused by UV rays seeping through the ozone layer. As a result of this the algae becomes toxic then; which causes the coral to expel it leaving coral dead. Some of the other threats or dangers are tourism (suntan lotion, sweat and reef walking), oil exploration, limestone mining, the Crown of Thorns sea-star and dropping anchors. All things considered, the Great Barrier Reef has a significant amount of threats or dangers which have converted it into one of the most famous fragile eco-systems on the planet.


Coral Bleaching from 1998 to 2002

Interesting Facts about the Great Barrier Reef

The magnificent Great Barrier Reef has an extensive amount of interesting facts. Some include that: the coral species Porites is 1000 years old, in fact the oldest coral in the reef. The reef's modern structure is 6000-8000 years old. The Great Barrier Reef contains 2,900 individual reefs and more than 900 islands. It can be seen from outer space. The Great Barrier Reef's average depth is 35m deep. It is larger than Victora and Tasmania combined, it is larger than Holland, Switzerland and the UK merged together. It is approximately the size of Japan, Germany, Malaysia or Italy on their own. It is also half the size of Texas and nearly the size of the whole Baltic Sea. The Great Barrier Reef is the size of the Western U.S. border from Vancouver to Mexico. Due to unforeseen circumstances the U.S. navy was forced to drop 4 inactive bombs into the Great Barrier Reef. Overall the Great Barrier Reef is full of interesting facts and with every passing day marine scientists are continuously discovering new ones.


Conclusion

In conclusion, it is clear to see that the Great Barrier Reef is the most popular, diverse and unique eco-system on the planet. It has earned that title as a result of having the highest concentration of fauna and flora in the world; and because of that it is the most significant tourism source in Australia. Unfortunately it has a noticeable amount of threats or dangers which make it one of the may fragile eco-systems on the planet. Scientist are continuously learning more about the Great Barrier Reef and it is that knowledge that allows us to protect and preserve the marvellous Great Barrier Reef.