Fish of unimaginable kinds and colours race through the corals cutting through the crystal blue waters. From the surface, the sun waves its bright light deep into the blue, lighting up the place. What a breathtaking scenery that displays the splendour and beauty of the natural world!
Yet coral reefs remain endangered and are on the verge of extinction. The Great Barrier Reef in Queensland, Australia, has a distinct ecosystem that cannot be seen anywhere in the world. From various marine species to an array of corals, this is a delicate ecosystem dependent on one another.
Now, is there hope for the rejuvenation of the Great Barrier Reef?
It’s up to you to act now to save them in the future!
So, if you are unaware of this peculiar reef and what’s happening to it in 2023, read through to get ample information to do your part to save the dwindling beauty of these reefs!
1. Stay Tuned and Updated: News Highlights About the Great Barrier Reef
Before diving into the depths of the reef, it’s vital to know what is happening to it in the present world. This can be your opportunity to know the changing issues, events around the coral reefs and stay empowered towards a change to make the planet a better place in the near future.
1.1 Marine Heatwaves Strike the Australian Coast Threatening the Great Barrier Reefs (GBR)
As the present world is moving towards climate change with hotter days, especially in June and July, the marine heatwave across the coasts of Queensland put scientists under jitters about the health of the corals in the GBR.
Reports from The Guardian stated that the heat over the reefs ranked the twelfth highest in the month of June. From the Australian Bureau of Meteorology, the reports say that the temperatures have shot over 1 degree, which is over the average limit for the year.
If the heat waves continue, the corals might experience a loss of algae from their tissues due to excessive heat and turn white, ultimately making them vulnerable to diseases…
Click here to read the entire news story!
1.2 Glue Back the Coral Rubble! Lab- Synthesized Bio-Degradable Gum by Scientists
Apart from the challenging issues of coral bleaching to the coral-eating Crown of Thorns starfish, scientists have put up to solve the problem of coral rubble.
Coral rubble is caused when vessels crash against the corals, cyclones or other natural disasters to the coral or if the coral dies because of other external threats leaving a patch of coral behind.
However, the rubble can take a long time amidst the waves and currents to heal and stabilise the seabed for new coral life to develop.
Hence, Leonie Barner, a QUT chemistry professor, and her team have developed a bio-degradable adhesive to glue the broken coral pieces, allowing recovery until the putty dissolves…
Check out here what Leonie Barner and her team have to say!
1.3 A Promise to Make the Great Barrier Reef Gillnet-Free by 2027
As a jointly introduced measure, the State and Federal Governments have missioned to eradicate Gillnets by 2027. These pose a significant threat to protected and threatened species like the hammerheads.
These include dolphins, turtles, dugongs, and a few other sharks. The Government has planned to fund over $160 million to lower the high-risk fishing around the GBR, including net fishing.
The primary purpose is to promote sustainable fishing practices and offer endangered species the required protection.
Click here to read what the State and Federal Governments have to say!
2. The Great Barrier Reef Australia: Overview
The Great Barrier Reef (GBR) is the world’s largest coral reef ecosystem that houses diverse marine organisms from fishes, whales, and even the tiniest of corals out of which the reef has emerged.
The GBR is not a single stretch of the reef system. Instead, they comprise more than 2900 particular reefs spread across 900 islands. They are located on the coast of North Queensland in Australia.
It is also a renowned tourist destination, with millions of visitors to enjoy taking a reef tour to enjoy the unparalleled beauty of nature underwater.
Ultimately because of the rich, valuable, and complex biodiversity, the Great Barrier Reef became one of the Seven Wonders of the World and a part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1981!
3. Where is the Great Barrier Reef Located in Australia?
Stretching over 2300 km along the coastline of the state of Queensland, the Great Barrier Reef shimmers on the North- Eastern coast of Australia.
The GBR begins from Cape York Peninsula’s tip from the North and ends in the Bundaberg at the south. This is the ideal site for scuba diving.
Check out the map of the GBR here!
4. How Long is the Great Barrier Reef?
Blanketing the North Eastern coast of Australia, the Great Barrier Reef extends like a long, narrow band covering an area of up to 344,400 square kilometres. The width of the reef ranges from 650 to 200km.
Its depth is up to 35 meters inside the water close to the shore. However, in the continental slopes and outer reefs, the depths extend over 2000 meters.
Great Barrier Reef Facts: Did you know? The Great Barrier Reef is so big that one can look at it from outer space! It is the most enormous single structure handcrafted by living organisms.
Still, wondering how big is the GBR?
Well, it is greater than:
- Tasmania and Victoria combined.
- Holland, UK, and Switzerland combined.
- Approximately equal in the area as Malaysia, Japan, Italy, or Germany.
- Around half the size of Texas.
- It is the size of 70 million football fields!
5. Diving into the Expanse of the Great Barrier Reef
In the Geographical context, the Great Barrier Reef extends from the Torres Strait in the north to the unnamed area shared by Lady Elliot and Fraser Islands in the south. Most of the reef is protected under the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.
Ribbon reefs and deltaic reefs are found only in the northern Great Barrier Reef. Fringing reefs (reefs growing in shallow areas) or extending from the shoreline are most common towards the southern Great Barrier Reef.
The crescentic reef can be found in the central part of the reef systems in the places surrounding Lizard Island in northwestern Brisbane. Planar reefs are found across the north and south parts of the system close to Princess Charlotte Bay, Cape York Peninsula, and Cairns.
5.1 Geological Exploration
The evolution of the Great Barrier Reef dates back to the formation of the Australian Subcontinent millions of years ago. With a series of tectonic uplifts, volcanic eruptions, and basalt flows and the movement of the Australian continent to its present place resulted in the growth of the coral reefs.
The formation of the reef system is complex and long but to simplify it for you, the coral reefs were formed when the Coral Sea Basin came into existence between 58 and 48 million years ago.
According to scientists, it is believed that the reef structures were formed 600,000 years ago, and the reefs we see today were formed 20,000 years ago in the Last Glacial Maximum.
It is believed that the first reef system underwent climatic and sea level changes that caused them to decline as reefs require proper temperature and sunlight levels. And from the died-out reefs sprung new reefs that we see today, which are actually 6,000 to 8,000 years old.
However, the evolution of the reef systems shares a common ground to evolve, that is, from the skeletal waste and skeletons of a group of living marine species. The reef system framework was built using calcareous leftovers of the tiny organisms known as coral polyps and hydro corals.
This was used by the coralline algae and the bryozoans to bind these remains intact. When sea levels began to rise 20,000 years ago, the corals began growing along the coastal plains on the freshly engulfed maritime margins of the hills.
These hills were initially continental islands that submerged as the sea levels rose. The growth of the corals on the hills resulted in the formation of cays and reefs we see today.
Interesting fact: Did you know? The debris of an ancient barrier reef that is precisely similar to the Great Barrier Reef was located in Western Australia at Kimberly.
5.2 Biodiversity and Ecology
The Southwestern Pacific Ocean creates an adequate water environment for the Great Barrier Reef from its surface water layer. The marine species live at a 30 m depth from the water’s surface. And the temperature at the surface is relatively high, ranging between 21 to 38 degrees Celsius.
Being a biodiversity hotspot, the Great Barrier Reef houses a minimum of 450 species, including hard corals, sponges, anemones, gastropods, worms, lobsters, prawns, crayfish, and crabs.
Over 1500 species of fish thrive in the reef, with 15 species of seagrass in the form of beds to attract dugongs and six species of turtles that have used the reef as breeding grounds.
Check out this mind-boggling video for more information on the list of the Great Barrier Reef animals!
Interestingly, the reef also houses nesting birds on the islands, attracting over a million bird varieties with 22 seabird species and 32 shorebird species. Also, 2195 varieties of known plant species grow in the region, out of which three are considered endemic. They are either woody species on the northern islands or herbaceous species on the southern islands.
5.3 Tourism and Major Threats
Due to its rich and unique biodiversity, the GBR has become a popular tourist hub for people worldwide. Travelling across the reef in aircraft or small boats and taking a reef dive have become adventurous activities on the reef.
As a result, a Great Barrier Reef Marine Park was introduced to limit the human impact on this fragile ecosystem. Unfortunately, despite the limits, threats come from numerous external sources, including climate change, surface runoff, pollution, coral bleaching, fishing, dumping of dredging sludge, and invasive species like the crown-of-thorns starfish that feed on coral polyps.
Studies are constantly revealing the upcoming threats to this distinct ecosystem, and measures are continuously taken by the Government toward a greener future for this fragile ecosystem.
6. Why is the Great Barrier Reef in Queensland Important?
The exceptionally diverse area with unique biodiversity makes it a vital place requiring protection. Here are some factors that highlight the importance of the reef for Australia:
- The major part of Queensland is protected from significant damages from tropical storms along the coastline and tidal erosion by these reefs.
- It provides shelter for marine animals and humans thriving along the coastline from tropical storms.
- Like trees, they absorb significant carbon dioxide to produce exoskeletons, thereby decreasing global warming.
- The Barrier Reef ecosystem is interdependent for survival. If the reefs are depleting due to external factors, thousands of marine animals’ lives are at stake.
- They are a source of food and livelihood for people across the globe. Even they possess medicinal compounds to treat human ailments.
Ultimately, Dr Woolsey, in a 2017 presentation, explained the importance of protecting reefs stating that:
Coral reefs . . . provide food and livelihoods for hundreds of millions of people around the world, they protect shorelines from erosion, and they contain compounds that are used to treat human ailments. . . . Even though they cover less than one percent of the sea floor, they harbor about a quarter of all marine biodiversity.
7. How to Get to GBR?
The Coastal centres offer numerous day trips by boat to the reefs from Cairns or Port Douglas. You can find most of them miles away from the shore and need a few hours to get there and enjoy.
8. What is the Best Time to Reach the Barrier Reefs?
Arrayed under tropical waters, the GBR is the best place for experiencing great adventures, as you can get incredible swimming experiences and a great dive site throughout the year!
The place usually peaks between April and November when the days are hotter, especially on the northern side of the reef. However, having a winter reef experience is equally worth it as the temperatures generally head over 72°F (22°C).
9. Things to do at the GBR
Suppose you’re on a day trip to the reef. In that case, there are supersonic-speed catamarans to take you to some best spots in the reef and even dock them at platforms that are specially designated with glass-sided semi-submersibles for diving, snorkelling, or exploration.
Also, numerous boat tours, reef cruises, and even private charters provide a leisurely experience and create your kind of reef holiday. These offer services for diving, snorkelling, whale watching, or fishing experiences.
Interestingly, you can opt for overnight live-aboard options in these vessels to journey to the remotest locales.
Otherwise, you can soar over the reef, taking an aircraft or a helicopter to get a bird’s-eye view of the huge reef system where most of them are found near the surface amid the clear, warm waters.
10. Over to You
As you enjoy your trip, you must also not forget to take a step to protect and preserve this landscape. So here are a few tips you can follow to help save this reef for the future!
- Consume sustainable seafood
- Volunteer for beach cleanups
- Utilise less water
- Avoid purchasing coral as a gift
- Don’t pluck off the coral from the reef
- Be cautious while boating across the reef
- Lessen chemical usage
- Use eco-friendly sunscreens
- When you are diving or snorkelling, avoid touching the reef
- Use long-term efficiency light bulbs
Although the Great Barrier Reef is swaying to reach the sail across the future, let us do our part to help save this special aquatic ecosystem!
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