Scientific FantasyThe Great Barrier Reef Australia- 8 Amazing Things to...

The Great Barrier Reef Australia- 8 Amazing Things to Know


The Great Barrier Reef as the name symbolizes, is the most extensive coral reef network in the world, located off the coast of Queensland, Australia. It spans over 2,300 km over an area of over 344,400 sq. km. It is larger than the combined areas of the UK, Switzerland, and Holland! It is comprised of thousands of distinct corals and 900 islands.

In reality, corals are animals and not a plant. Millions of tiny living species known as coral polyps make up and construct the reef structure. In 2006, the Queensland National Trust designated it as a state icon of Queensland.

It is the world’s largest coral reef and the only solid entity created by living organisms on earth that can be viewed from the moon with the bare eye.

“Great Barrier Reef” 

When viewed from above, the huge mosaic patterns of ridges, islets, and marine microorganisms, create an unmatched aerial spectacle of seascapes with a variety of forms and sizes. The Whitsunday Islands offer a breathtaking view of lushly forested islands and breathtaking sandy beaches scattered across turquoise waters.

Seasonal coral in the sizable mangrove swamps in Hinchinbrook Channel, as well as the occasionally cloud-covered rocky slopes and lush rainforest gullies on Hinchinbrook Island.

Underneath the ocean, there are a wide variety of shapes, sizes, and colors of marine biodiversity. The magnificent coral assemblages of hard and soft corals and thousands of species of reef fish offer a wide range of dazzling hues.

Prominent tourist spawning, whale migration, turtle nesting, and major fish breeding aggregations are a few more outstanding natural events.

The colorful underwater scenes of Great Barrier Reef
Image by Ian van der Linde from Pexels

Matthew Flinders was an explorer who gave the Great Barrier Reef its name. Flinders adopted the term because the reef surrounds Australia and shields it by creating a difficult barrier for seafarers. Matthew Flinders discovered the Australian coastline and was the one who deployed small boats to scan the depths and later mapped a safe route thru. Flinder’s Passage still is the name of this route.

1. Australia’s Great Barrier Reef History

At present The Great Barrier Reef is 6,000–8,000 years old. But it holds a magnificent history of coming into existence.

Somewhere between 50- 60 million years ago, the first coral reef began to emerge in the Coral Sea in the Pacific Ocean. Over millions of years, several shoals were created, destroyed, and then rebuilt.

When Australia’s land surface started to move to its current location, the water levels changed, causing the region to grow faster and go through 2 development stages for the coral reef that exists today. The first occurred 3 million years ago when sea levels and climate altered and caused this reef to die.

The second phase began some 20,000 years ago when fresh coral started to emerge on top of the older reef’s ruins. About 20,000 years ago somewhere at ending of the last glacial activity, sea levels began to rise, and the rising seawater began to cover low-lying lands along Australia’s east coast.

Above the Sea Level

On this freshly submerged terrain, the reef slowly began to grow, and fresh coral started to emerge on top of the older reef’s ruins. As the sea level stabilized about 13,000 years ago, The Great Barrier Reef has existed in its current form for between 6,000 and 8,000 years.

It is now widely accepted that a Portuguese voyage, likely under the direction of Cristovao de Mendonca, made the first known sighting of Australia’s east coast in or about 1522. The west coast of Cape York Peninsula was first plotted by Willem Jansz in the Duyfken in March 1606. Later, while traveling from east to west along Papua’s southern coast, Luis de Torres spotted the Torres Strait islands.

Aboriginal Australians and Torres Strait Islanders are the original owners as they have used the Great Barrier Reef for longer. The area has been inhabited by Aboriginal Australians for at least 40,000 years, and by Torres Strait Islanders for roughly 10,000 years. The reef is a significant cultural element for these 70 or more clan groups.

2. Why Great Barrier reef is so Special?

Lady Musgrave Island coral atoll, Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, Queensland, Australia
Image by dpf.peter from Flickr
  • The Great Barrier Reef is the world’s largest coral reef and is so vast that just 7% of it is used for tourists, which means there are still infinite untouched seas to explore.
  • Since it is home to a great variety of life and preserves marine life, it has been selected as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1981 as it fulfills all four of the criteria for a World Heritage listing.
  • Also, In 1997 CNN listed it as one of the seven wonders of the natural world.
  • Australia’s Great Barrier Reef is home to six of the seven sea turtle species found worldwide. It is home to numerous strategically significant marine turtle nesting sites in addition to Raine Island, which is home to the largest green turtle spawning site in the world.
  • You will see the Nemo fish here that inspires the movie Finding Nemo. Nevertheless, it is home to 134 kinds of sharks and rays, the biggest bivalve mollusk -gigantic clam, which is endangered manatees, and more than 30 species of marine mammals, including dolphins, and whales.

    Clown Fish (Nemo) in the Great Barrier Reef
    Image by Oleksandr Pidvalnyi from Pexels

3. The Great Barrier Reef is the biggest tourist spot that boosts tourism in Australia 

With more than 100 picturesque islands scattered over the reef to tour, it is one of Australia’s most popular tourist destinations. With rainbow-colored corals and a variety of marine creatures to observe close enough to touch, the snorkeling and scuba diving chances here are some of the best in the entire world.

Organizations in tourism contribute to showcasing the Reef’s natural values, enhancing tourist experiences, and maintaining the incredible biodiversity that underpins their sector.

Leading reef interpreters and guides, Master Reef Guides showcase the beauties of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area. The GBRMPA, Association of Marine Park Tourism Operators, and Tourism and Events Queensland are delivering the first-ever master reef guides Program for the Reef.

82 Master Reef Guides are presently dispersed across the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, from Lady Elliot Island in the southern Great Barrier Reef to the Ribbon Reefs in the north. You can find more about Master Reef Guides on Master Reef Guides | gbrmpa.

Swimming under the sea beneath the Great Barrier Reef
Image by Jondave Libiran from Pexels

The reef is a greatly desirable travel destination, particularly for scuba divers, because of its extensive biodiversity, warm, clear seas, and connectivity from the tourist vessels known as “liveaboards.” Daily boat tours are available from numerous Queensland coastal cities because of their accessibility. Cairns and Most travelers to the Great Barrier Reef turn up in the Whitsundays. They occupy 7%–8% of the park’s total area.

Tourists intended to experience a “natural, unspoiled environment,” visiting stunning islands and beaches, and viewing a variety of fish and corals to compare. Today, resorts can be found on several continental and coral cay islands, such as Green Island and Lady Elliot Island.

4. When was the first time noted reef’s unfavourable Conditions?

Since 1995, it’s been reported that the Great Barrier Reef region has lost more than 50% of its corals; if global warming continues, this percentage will only continue to rise. By late January 1998, there was some light bleaching, which got worse in February or March.

Scientists from The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority ( GBRMPA ) conducted extensive aerial examinations and found bleaching on 74% of inshore and 21% of offshore reefs. Due to rising ocean temperatures brought on by the burning of fossil fuels, Coral bleaching occurred in great quantities in 1998 followed by 2002, 2016, 2017, 2020, and 2022 and ruining the reef’s health.

5. Let’s take a  look over the threats  that making the Coral Reef Dying 

The main threats to the sustainability of this coral reef are fishing, pollution, crown-of-thorns starfish, and climate change. Tropical cyclones, oil spills, and shipwrecks are additional dangers. 31 kinds of coral are affected by the disease known as the Skeletal Eroding Band, which affects bone corals.

1. Pollution

Over the year due to the endless number of causes, the threat of the GBR dying is increasing. The key component is pollution. Pick up any type of pollution whether it is water, land, chemical, or soil pollution, it has shown destructive impacts on the Great Barrier reef. According to the Australian Research Council (ARC) Home | Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies research, 67% of corals died in the reef’s worst-affected northern portion.

As debris and other contaminants enter the water, they suffocate coral, accelerate the growth of harmful algae, and reduce water quality. Pollution can often render corals increasingly prone to infection, limit coral growth and reproduction, and alter nutrition dynamics on the reef.

Polluted Great Barrier Reef
Image by Jorge Láscar from Flickr

2. Agricultural and chemical Pollution 

Agricultural activities involve fertilizers and pesticides and thus lead to the cause of poor water quality in the Great Barrier Reef stream, accounting for more than 80% of the Great Barrier Reef streamflow.

Pesticides containing metals such as copper, mercury, arsenic, and other pollutants are emitted into the environment as a result of Agri soil degradation, which harms ridges. Poor water quality, particularly in coastal locations, is a severe hazard to the Great Barrier Reef.

It is vital to improving the quality of water entering the Marine Park. Fertilizers also boost the number of phytoplankton that can be eaten by dangerous crown-of-thorns starfish larvae. According to one study, upping the chlorophyll in the water results in a 10 % increase in the survival rate of crown-of-thorns starfish larvae.

3. Eutrophication

Numerous factors contribute to eutrophication’s detrimental effects, which might eventually cause the coral species to be replaced by other types of flora and fauna.

Agricultural fertilizer discharge introduces nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium into the oceanic habitats, causing tremendous algae growth and, eventually, a decrease in sufficient oxygen for other animals in a mechanism known as eutrophication.

The fertilizers contain nitrogen, which has been related to toxic algal blooms, which provide food for young crown-of-thorns starfish. This reduces biodiversity in impacted areas, affecting species richness.

Hard coral counts were nearly doubled on reefs far off from farming areas, according to a study conducted by Katharina Fabricius and Glen Death of the Australian Institute of Marine Science.

4. Climate change

Climate change, which warms the water and causes coral bleaching, is interpreted by the GBRMPA as the greatest threat to the Great Barrier Reef. bleaching is anticipated to become an annual occurrence. Ocean heatwaves caused mass bleaching outbreaks in the summers of 1998, 2002, 2006, 2016, 2017, and 2020.

Corals won’t be able to adapt to the warmer oceans as long as climate change persists. Benthic corals, which are sensitive to heat stress, are found to be bleached in five species of big benthic coral from the GBR. The number of sea turtles and their habitat alternatives will be impacted by climate change. The Great Barrier Reef is predicted to disappear over the next 100 years mentioned in (

5. Mining

In 2009 and 2011, the mining company Queensland Nickel released nitrate-containing wastewater into the Great Barrier Reef; the latter release totaled 516 tonnes of sewage. The firm has been aggressively urged to look into alternatives to discharging the substance into the environment and to create a management strategy to get rid of this possible threat, according to the GBRMPA.

6. Coral Bleaching

It happens when corals experience stress, they discharge the tiny algae that reside in their tissues. , the corals’ tissues become translucent without the algae, revealing their white skeleton. Although bleached corals are not dead, they are more susceptible to famine and illness causing declining in the reef’s health.

6. Factors leading to the Bleaching of Corals

  1. It is mostly brought on by the rise in ocean temperatures brought on by climate change.
  2. A temperature rise of merely one degree Celsius for four weeks causes Bleaching.
  3. Corals may also bleach as a result of alterations in the water’s quality, greater sun exposure, and exceptionally low tides.
The bleaching on a coral reef at Halfway Island in Australia's Great Barrier Reef
Image by Portal NE10 from Flickr

According to Coral bleaching – Great Barrier Reef Foundation, The Great Barrier Reef has had four major bleaching episodes in the previous seven years, with other broad occurrences over the preceding 20 years. One of the warmest summers ever recorded on the Great Barrier Reef occurred between 1997 and 1998.

Late in January, there was a little bleaching that got worse in February and March. However, the most seriously hit reefs in the Palm Island area witnessed up to 70% of corals dead. Most reefs recovered completely, with fewer than 5% of near-shore reefs experiencing significant coral fatality.

In the summers of 2001 and 2002, 54% of the 641 reefs were seen bleached but in January and February 2006, the southernmost portion of the Reef, notably the area surrounding the Keppel Islands, saw a significant amount of bleaching. Up to 98% of corals on certain reefs were bleached, which is a higher percentage than in past years.

A decade later in 2016, due to record-high ocean temperatures, the Far Northern management region between Cape York and Port Douglas witnessed serious and widespread bleaching events. Due to the significant bleaching events resulting from this, 22% of all corals on the Reef died. Less significant bleaching events occurred in the southern portions of the Reef. the.

Negative impact on the middle part of the Great Barrier Reef

Early in 2017, exceptionally warm sea surface temperatures and cumulative heat stress had a significant negative impact on the middle part of the Great Barrier Reef. In both years, the southern part was unaffected and the Great Barrier Reef underwent unprecedented back-to-back bleaching.

The Great Barrier Reef had widespread, severe bleaching events in many of its zones between 2020 and 2022. Of the reefs that were aerially scanned and analyzed that 60% have bleached. Limited information on coral mortality was gathered since the Covid-19 epidemic prevented on-water monitoring capabilities.

Latestly, bleaching was seen over the whole length of the Reef, with major bleaching occurring in the Northern and Central areas. Bleaching was generally minimal in the South. The fact that this widespread bleaching episode had place during a La Nia summer, which is generally colder and wetter, was particularly alarming.

Bleached Staghorn corals are found in the Great Barrier Reef.
Image by Matt Kieffer from Flickr
  1. Fishing

The Great Barrier Reef’s environment is lost as a result of overfishing. The usage of anchors and nets results in the destruction of several habitats for coral and fish on the reef, in addition to the pollution caused by boats.

The key problem with overfishing is that the targeted species don’t have enough time to reproduce, which results in a decline in the population of that species. The Great Barrier Reef’s ecology is highly interconnected, thus the decline in one species would have a significant impact on the abundance of others.

Overfishing of fish species that consume plants might result in more algae growing around the GBR region. The number of carnivorous species would decline as a result of their difficulty in obtaining food. The number of endangered species mistakenly captured by fishing nets or gill nets has resulted in the exploitation of the Great Barrier Reef.

Trading of Species

Since it is illegal to trade these species, they are frequently released into the water, where they usually die, adding to the pressure on those species to procreate.

Deep sea trawlers may damage surrounding coral systems when they drag their nets through the reef. The coral is damaged when the trawlers are in motion because the net drags across the water. As they are already severely impacted by bleaching events and crown-of-thorn starfish, this puts even more pressure on the coral to reproduce.

Overfishing harms coral reefs across 55% of the globe. Algae may develop unchecked and eventually suffocate corals as fish numbers drop, especially those species that feed on algae.

Dead corals in the Great Barrier reef
Image by ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies from Flickr

2. Shark culling 

Sharks are purposefully killed as part of the Queensland government’s “shark control” program, which also includes the Great Barrier Reef. Environmentalists and biologists claim that this program is “old-fashioned, brutal, and ineffectual” and that it affects marine ecology.

The Great Barrier Reef has 173 deadly drumlines that the Queensland “shark control” program utilizes to kill sharks there. . From 1962 to 2018, Queensland’s “shark control” program claimed the lives of roughly 50,000 sharks.

3. Shipping

As multiple commercial shipping routes travel through the Great Barrier Reef, maritime accidents are a serious problem. Reef pilots believe that, despite the Great Barrier Reef’s difficulties, it is safer to travel through it than outside of it in the case of a mechanical breakdown since the ship may remain in place while being repaired.

Over 1,600 shipwrecks are known to have occurred near the Great Barrier Reef. When the bulk coal ship Shen Neng 1 came aground on Douglas Shoals on April 3, 2010, up to four tonnes of oil were spilled into the ocean and the reef sustained significant damage.

The quality of the water is ruined and coral and seagrass habitats are squashed by fine particles that are blown up into the water and can drift for almost 100 kilometers.

MV Shen Neng 1 grounded and spilling fuel oil on the Great Barrier Reef in April 2010
Image by Conch Aid from Flickr

4. Tourism

Corals become stressed when visitors accidentally touch, contaminate, or break off portions of the reef. The coral organisms attempt to fend off the invasion, but this action frequently results in bleaching, in which the corals lose all of the vividly colored algae that are native to them and turn entirely white.

During the tour, tourists use boats, trample, also snorkeling, visitors not keeping a reasonable distance disturbs animals, pollutants from litter and human excrement, and increasing pressure from recreational fishing affects the sea.

7. Future without Coral Reefs 

Think about this for a moment because Coral barriers offer defense against flooding and coastal damage, without them, coastlines will rapidly erode, and many small island nations may potentially disappear from the map of the globe! There could be a lot more severe effects that we are currently unable to see.

Around a billion people depend on coral reefs for their food and way of life worldwide, according to the UN. It would be disastrous if they disappeared, depriving hundreds of millions of people worldwide of their primary source of food and money.

However, coral reefs are thought to support 25% of all marine life but another reality is they are also essential for sustaining human life. Corals and algae have a symbiotic interaction that results in the production of half of the oxygen in our atmosphere.

Underwater sea view of marine life in Great Barrier Reef
Image by Francesco Ungaro from Pexels

8. Plans to save the Great Barrier Reef 

The Australian government has prioritized the protection of this World Heritage Site in association with the Australian Institute of Marine Science which was founded in 1972.

They have gotten a lot of their information about dangers to the Great Barrier Reef from their National Environmental Science Program, which has received around $142.5 million in funding from the Australian and Queensland governments.

The governments of Australia and Queensland came up with a plan in March 2015 to safeguard the reef’s cultural identity up to the year 2050.

The “Reef 2050 Plan,” a 35-year plan, is a memorandum that suggests potential actions for the long-term management of pollution, climate change, and other problems that endanger the viability and worth of this intangible cultural property.

The long-term sustainability plan, water quality improvement plan, and investment plan for the conservation and preservation of The Reef until 2050 are all included in the plan’s components for measurement and improvements.

Water Quality Improvement Plan

Additionally, the Reef 2050 Water Quality Improvement Plan was unveiled in 2018 to assist local businesses, agricultural groups, and industries in making the transition to more sustainable methods.

To control the quantity of runoff that enters the Great Barrier Reef and to lessen population flare-ups of the crown-of-thorns starfish, this strategy will work with the Queensland government and the GBRMPA.

The Great Barrier Reef’s tourism is managed with an eye on ecological sustainability. There is a daily charge that subsidizes research on the Great Barrier Reef. Ultimately, 20% of the GBRMPA’s revenue comes from this charge.

The traffic on the Great Barrier Reef is regulated by laws governing cruise ships, bareboat charters, and anchorages.

The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority has positioned several permanent mooring places close to the common areas to protect reefs.

Through this, the reef is protected from harm caused by anchoring, which may kill soft coral, break hard coral, and disrupt sediment as it is dragged over the bottom. Also, tourism providers must adhere to speed regulations when traveling to or from tourist locations.

Final Note

Fortunately, the reef is as healthy as it has not become a prohibited area to visit, travelers can visit and explore the splendorous reef. Humans indeed play a part in helping the reef survive by taking the right actions while exploring, making the correct financial investments in its preservation, and raising awareness of the risks it confronts.

Aerial view of Great Barrier Reef, Australia
Images by Janique Goff from Flickr

It took thousands of years to form The Great Barrier Reef and only a short period to destroy it and still humankind is making an incredible stride toward destroying it. Thankfully, it’s still alive and needs to be preserved for a healthier environment.

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