Great Barrier Reef

Abarnika Jathy Jeyakumaran

Introduction

The Great Barrier Reef is the largest coral reef in the world. Deep in the Great Barrier Reef, there are many exciting and exuberant wonders both discovered and undiscovered, many waiting to be found by scientists. However there are many threats and dangers, making it one of the most fragile and dependant ecosystems in the world. Being more than 300 000 years old and having a modern structure over 8 000 years old the Great Barrier Reef is listed as one of the Australian heritage sites, along with other places such as Uluru and The Daintree Rainforest. The Great Barrier Reef is not just one reef but over 3 000 individual coral reefs. From tiny plankton to the largest blue whales the Great Barrier Reef has it all.

Location & Climate

The Great Barrier Reef is in Queensland, Australia, in the Southern Hemisphere. It stretches exactly from Cape York Penninsula, Queensland all the way to Lady Elliot IS, near Papa New Guinea. The Great Barrier Reef includes over 900 islands and covers over 230 000 cubed kilometres. It covers an approximate area of Italy. At the Great Barrier Reef temperatures are an average of 28 degrees and temperatures must range within 21-36 degrees. Temperatures must be warm for tropical fishes but not so hot that the reef dries up. 
Big image

Flora

The Great Barrier Reef is known for its coral varieties as it is a coral reef. There are 400 coral types, including 350 breeds of hard coral and 50 breeds of soft coral. Many flora species like seagrass and marine algae are forms of protection to young fish and other small sea animals. Many of these plants can also be spawning grounds for many other fauna species. The Great Barrier Reef is well known for its 37 different mangrove types, forming 57% of the total mangroveson earth. These mangroves grow in the Great Barrier Reef. The mangroves are vital for the spawning of turtles, dugongs (an endangered sea mammal) and other tropical fish. Roots of mangrove plants provide a source of safety and protection. This proves the biodiversity and dependency between the flora and fauna of the Great Barrier Reef.

Fauna

The fauna of the Great Barrier Reef is just as diverse in variety as its flora. It has 5 000 species of molluscs, 800 types of echinoderms (starfishes and sea urchins), 1 500 fish breeds and 22 varieties of birds living on the coast of the islands. There are also 6 sea turtles all listed as endangered: the Hawksbill Turtle, the Loggerhead Turtle, the Olive Ridely Turtle, The Flatback Turtle and the Green Turtle. The Great Barrier Reef also has the most aquatic mammals compared to any other place in the world. One of these sea mammals are dugongs. Dugong look very simmilar to manatees and are currently highly endangered, because previously they were hunted by humans. Their habitat was also destroyed because of climate change and its lack of adaptation. Dugongs are now found in sanctuaries, to be preserved for when they become extinct. Other sea mammals include whales, dolphins and sharks.

Threats & Dangers

At the moment climate change is a major threat to the Great Barrier Reef. Recently a report has been released. This report states that half of the Great Barrier Reef has disappeared in just the past 27 years. It also said that unless immediate action is taken, within the next ten years the Great Barrier Reef will shrink to half of its current size. Another danger is human impact. When humans come in contact with such a fragile ecosystem even a mere touch could do a lot of damage. Coral bleaching is another major threat and danger. The reason that coral bleaching takes place is because of Ozone Depletion. Coral Bleaching is when the coral loses it's colour. Usually this is because too much UV rays reach the reef. Sometimes it may be due to the rise in water temperature. Statistics show that coral bleaching has aldready affected 5% of the Great Barrier Reef, and if the temperature rises any further and the pollution increases any more, soon the Great Barrier Reef will no longer stand.

Tourism

At first everyone could go to the Great Barrier Reef, however nowadays, due to the threats and dangers it is secured. It is currently called the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park and has approximately 820 operators and 1 500 vessels for tourism. The Great Barrier Reef is an Australian icon and earns over $3.5 billion dollars for the Australian Economy every year. Some of the activities include: scuba diving, glass-bottomed boat rides, cruise ships, ferry rides and even whale watching  

Interesting Facts

*The Great Barrier Reef is listed as one of Seven Natural Wonders of the world by UNESCO
*About 10% of the total fish species belonging to the world, can be found just within the Great Barrier Reef
*The Great Barrier Reef is one of the few Australian features that can be seen from space
*In 2003 the Great Barrier Reef earnt $4.228 billion for the Australian Economy
*In April 2010 a ship crashed into rocks and spilled oil into the Great Barrier Reef
Big image

Conclusion

The Great Barrier Reef is the largest natural structure in the world. It is one of the oldest natural wonders as it formed 300 000 years ago. However currently there are many threats and dangers making the Great Barrier Reef is one of the most fragile ecosystems on earth. If the Great Barrier Reef disappears, so does thousands of years of the world heritage.

Bibliography

WEBSITES- Greatbarrierreef.org, ReefED.edu.au, Dictionary.com, Theasaurus.com, Reef.crc.org, Thefreedictionary.com, Austhrutime.com, Nationalgeographic.com and Geographyabout.com
ENCYCLOPEDIAS/BOOKS- World Book, Collins Australian Encyclopedia and National Geographic
VIDEOS- BTN Reef Warning, BTN Oil Spill, BTN Reef Ship
Big image