Fragile Ecosystems

Great Barrier Reef

Introduction

The Great Barrier Reef is known as the world's greatest coral reef ecosystems on Earth. It is also known as one of the seven wonders of the natural world. The Great Barrier Reef is the only living thing on Earth, that can be seen or (visible) from space. It consists of more than 2900 coral reefs, 900 unique islands and over 300 coral cays. There are a range of different islands such as, the "Haggerstone Island", which is a Robinson Cruso style retreat, the "Heron Island", which is the world's famous island because you can scuba-dive, snorkell and see the amazing "Green" and "Loggerhead" sea turtles and lastly, "Bederra Island", which is a luxury retreat in the Great Barrier Reef. The Great Barrier Reef also has an underwater diversity, full of sea creatures, which is found in the Western Pacific. In the Great Barrier Reef you will find abundant wildlife. It is known as one of the richest and most complex natural ecosystems on Earth, with beautiful golden beaches.

Location

The Great Barrier Reef is located on the north-east of Queensland, Australia near the coastal town of Bundaberg.(which is in the southern point of the Great Barrier Reef) It's average area of the Great Barrier Reef is 133 000 square miles. The Great Barrier Reef stretches 2300 kilometers. The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park is 345 000 square kilometers in size and is five times the size of the United Kingdom and Ireland joined together! In the Northern edge of the Great Barrier Reef, the Marine Park and the Heritage Area has a latitude of 10°40'55"S and goes south until 24°29'54"S, stretching to the "Tropic of Capricorn". The boundaries of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area reaches from the low-water mark, on the mainland coast of Queensland onto the South Pacific Ocean and just at the top of "Fraser Island" and on the bottom end to the corner of "Cape York". Despite the fact, this is where the World Hertage Area ends. The Great Barrier Reef will advance a few more hundred kilometers up towards Papua New Guinea.


The blue bit shaded is where the Great Barrier Reef is


Flora

There are a variety of plants, such as the Caroline Algae, mangroves, seagrass and much more!


Seagrass

Seagrasses are blooming plants that can be found in coastal reefs.15 of the 60 famous species of seagrass are commonly found in Queensland. Seagrasses can also be found in shallow waters below ten meters.The most common types of of seagrass in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area are Halophila and Halodule. From Cape York to Cairns, seagrasses of the type Halophila take over with the same amount of areas of rare and dense covers. Zostera Halodule and Halophila species of sea grass can be located near Cairns.The latest views have graphed that seagrasses are descending to the bottom of 60 meters. At these distances, the Halophila species are the most important seagrass. The latest etimates are that 13% of seagrass beds cover the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area.(GBRWHA)


Fauna

There are loads of sea animals in the Great Barrier Reef. It is home to more than 1500 species of fish, 411 types of hard coral, one-third of the world's soft coral, 134 species of sharks and rays, 6 threatened species of marine turtles and more than 30 species of marine mammals. There are 1800 species of fish, 125 species of sharks, 5000-8000 species of crustaceans, 17 sea snakes, 30 species of whales and dolphins, 6 sea turtles, 22 species of sea birds, 32 species of shore birds, rays, echinoderms and enormous clams that are over 120 years old.


Sea Turtles

There are 6 types of sea turtles which are the green, loggerhead, flatback, leatherback, hawksbill and the olive ridley. Flatback sea turtles nest on continental islands, leatherback sea turtles nest on the mainlands of Australia, loggerhead sea turtles nest on Turtle Bay, which is on the northern end of Dirk Hartog Island,also Shelter Bay Beach, which is on the Southern shore of South passage and Porre Island. Hawksbill sea turtles nest on sandy nesting sites, olive ridley sea turtles nest on tropical and subtropical beaches, while green sea turtles nest at breathing spaces.






Coral Reefs

Coral colonies have different shapes of coral because it depends on what environment the coral lives in. There are coral that is round and smooth that can only grow on strong wave actions, while branched coral grows in calm, deep water.


Building up a Coral Reef

Each polyp builds a case of limestone surrounding itself. The polyp then gets calcuim from the water. They are like houses because it has floors with walls in the polyp. The polyp stays there until it dies or creates a base for another polyp to build a house.(The new polyp uses the old polyp's roof to build floors and walls.) When the limestone formation develops, it is known as a coral reef.


What is an echinoderm?

An echinoderm is a sea animal that has a hard spiney shell and has 5 similar body extensions. There are 7 types of echinoderms which are, brittle stars, basket stars, sea urchins, sand dollars, sea lillies, feather stars and sea cucumbers.


Tourism

The Great Barrier Reef is the largest tourist activity generating over 4.228 million dollars per year. Australia is presenting the World Heritage listed Great Barrier Reef Marine Park to a variety of visitors. For several visitors to coastal Queensland, the tourism fleet is their main experience at the Great Barrier Reef. There are about 820 operators and 1500 vessels conducting in the Marine Park. There are different tourism operations in the Great Barrier Reef, such as day tours, overnight and extended tours, snorkelling, scuba-diving, fishing charters, long range roving tours, aircraft/helicopter tours, bare boat(self sail), glass- bottom boat viewing, semi-submercibles, educational trips, cruise ships, beach hire, water sports, passenger ferries, whale watching and swimming with the dolphins.


Threats and Dangers

There are many threats and dangers to the GBR, such as chemicals, leaking oil (oil pollution), overfishing, ferterliser runoffs, silk, sewerage, anchor damage, pollution, people walking on reefs, ship groundings, global warming, coral bleaching, climate change and a starfish that is called "Crown of Thorns" starfish. But these are the main threats:"Crown of Thorns" starfish, ship groundings and pollution. The crown of thorns starfish threats the GBR because it eats coral polyps. This type of starfish has always been part of life in a coral reef, but the balance in the ecosystem has changed and the main natural predator which are other species, is extremly appreciated by people for its shell. As a result, there has been a drop in triton numbers, a rise in the number of starfish and the destruction of enormous areas of coral. Ship groundings is another main threat to the GBR. Ship groundings is a type of marine accident that involves an impact of a ship on a seabed or waterway side. From the global's perspective,groundings accounts for about one-third of commercial ship accidents all over the world and it has second rank in frequency. It can ashore on the reef or oil spills can destroy large sections of the reef. Lastly, pollution is the last main threat to the GBR because pollution made important impacts on the Great Barrier Reef. The pollution that has threatened the reefs needs to stop. Scientists say that 22% of the world's coral reefs are threatened by pollution.


Interesting Facts- Did you know?

  • All clownfish are born males and only big ones are born females
  • Full grown coral eat baby coral
  • If you cut youself on coral and do not clean it, coral will grow inside your skin
  • The Great Barrier Reef can only live in water 68 feet or higher
  • Fish can recognise themselves by the patterns on their scales
  • Aboriginal people discovered the Great Barrier Reef
  • The Great Barrier Reef is larger than Switzerland, Holland and the United Kingdom joined together
  • The world's first coral reefs were found about 500 million years ago