Discover the Great Barrier Reef: An Underwater Wonderland
The Great Barrier Reef is a breathtaking underwater world! It has earned its place as one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. Located off the coast of Queensland, Australia, you can explore this vibrant ecosystem and experience its wonders up close. But for those of us who can’t hop on over to the land down under, here’s your chance to explore The Great Barrier Reef from home.
It's Farther Out Than You Think
While coral reefs thrive in warm, shallow waters, they may not be close to shore. The Great Barrier Reef is a barrier reef, meaning it runs parallel to the shore but is separated by a large lagoon. Your boat trip to the dive site could take between 45 minutes and 2 hours!
A Haven for Marine Life
The Great Barrier Reef is home to an incredible diversity of species, including 30 species of whales, dolphins, and porpoises, 6 species of turtles, 17 species of sea snakes, and over 1,500 species of fish, with 10% of the world’s fish species living here. Some of the creatures living in the Great Barrier Reef could be unchanged for over 500 million years thanks to the protection it provides!
Corals are Alive and Colorful
What are corals, you ask? Corals are formed by tiny creatures called polyps that have a sac-like body and emerging tentacles. They create a hard outer skeleton from calcium and carbonate ions in seawater to protect their soft bodies. The polyps form a relationship with the algae that live alongside them, absorbing light from the sun to feed the coral and giving it its bright colors. Corals are actually nocturnal and come out of their outer skeletons at night to catch passing creatures.
The Great Barrier Reef is the World's Largest Reef System
With almost 3,000 individual reefs, 900 islands, and stretching 2,600 km, the Great Barrier Reef is truly massive! This amazing living system is so large that it can even be seen from space. Just imagine Italy off the coast of Australia, and you’ll get an idea of its size.
Threats to the Reef
Unfortunately, the Great Barrier Reef is facing numerous challenges, with climate change being the biggest threat. Rising sea temperatures and pollution make the corals more susceptible to bleaching and eventually death. Tourism also contributes to the problem, as swimmers and divers touch and damage parts of the reef and leave behind rubbish, contaminating the waters with pollutants like sun cream.
Hope for the Reef's Future
The Australian government and conservationists are making protecting the Great Barrier Reef a top priority. Efforts are being made to reduce sediment runoff, and advanced laboratory techniques are allowing resilient corals to be grown and planted in the wild. Reef tourism is also part of the solution, generating $5-6 billion a year and contributing to reef protection. The more people who love the reef, the more determined they will be to help it survive.
The Great Barrier Reef is a true natural marvel and should be cherished by ocean and land lovers alike. It plays a vital role in regulating the Earth’s climate and provides habitat for countless species. Let’s spread the word and show the world why the Great Barrier Reef (and our oceans) deserve all the love and protection we can give!