The Great Barrier Reef is located on the northeastern coast of Australia. The Great Barrier Reef is the largest coral reef system in the world. The Great Barrier Reef can be seen from outer space, it is so big that it is the size of the the United Kingdom, Holland and Switzerland combined. Approximately 10% of the worlds fish species live within the Reef systems.

The Great Barrier Reef consists of over 600 different islands. Australian aboriginals consider themselves caretakers of Australian wildlife and the land. So when the Great Barrier Reef is under environmental threats the aboriginals communities in Australia feel somewhat responsible. Many of the aboriginal Australian ancestors have been in these waters for approximately 40,000 years, these people might've island hopped while going on fishing trips. The Australian community really care about the Great Barrier Reef because it is internationally known and is the home for thousands of different species. The Great Barrier Reef is so important as it is one of the 7 wonders of the natural world.


The Great Barrier Reef is on the northeastern coast of Australia. It covers a space of 344,000km. The absolute location of the Great Barrier Reef is 18.2871° S, 147.6992° E. It has an average of 35 metres in the inshore reefs but the reefs further out can go as deep as 2000 metres. The systems spans over 14° of latitude.The Great Barrier Reef covers most of the northeastern coast. It stops just above the border between Queensland and New South Wales. The shape of Great Barrier Reef is basically the same shape as the north east coast as it follows the coast all the way down to the border of NSW and QLD.

This is a contour/topographic map of the Great Barrier Reef

A contour or topographic map contains line called contour lines. These contour lines never cross over, never touch another line, one line is the same level of elevation, contour lines never split or branch and all contour lines connect with themselves. This map uses colours to distinguish the different depths. For example the brown on the far left is 0 metres so at sea level that means every brown point on the map is at 0 metres. On the map above the key states that the unit of measurement is metres and that it has number on the line. These number represent metres below sea level as we are talking about something under the water.

The Great Barrier Reef is believed to have been formed more than 20 million years ago, over that amount of time many generations of coral have died. The coral then formed many walls of stone that are covered in species like algae, worms, fish, turtles and many more. Caoptain cook was the first person to record the existence of the Great Barrier Reef. Aborigines have dreamtime stories connecting them to the reefs. Animals like the dugong and turtles are frequently seen in dream time stories form Torres Strait islanders and aborigines.


The vegetation in the Great Barrier Reef is plentiful. There are many different types of coral and animals. It has 1,625 different types of fish living in the Reef, 3000 coral reefs and 215 species birds. The Great Barrier Reef has many diversely different animals and some of which are endangered these include dugongs, whales and turtles.

The inland coral reefs can be very shallow compared to the outer reefs. These depths can range from 5 metres to 150 metres. Reefs don't generally grow below 150 metres of depth because their need for sunlight to survive. Many islands in the Great Barrier Reef can be visited as they have beautiful beaches and vegetation.

The Great Barrier Reef is a tropical climate 24° to 33° in the summer and 14° to 26° Celsius in the winter. It only has two season 'the green' and 'the dry'. Nearly all of the Reef is natural except for some building on main tourist islands. The environment has been challenged a lot because of the factor of global warming, pollution, coral dying and ice ages. The increase in temperatures from global warming has increased affects of the bleaching coral. Most of the pollution entering the reefs is from run off because the toxic chemicals in the runoff pollutes the water.


The tourism industry has affected the Great Barrier Reef enormously. Islands like daydream island and Bedarra are popular for tourists to visit. The diversity in the animals that live in the reefs and the stunning blue clear waters attract tourist near and far. Nearly 2 million people visit the reef every year, many cruises and boat tours are offered when going to the reefs. The reef generates more than 2 billion dollars from tourism.

The problems facing the Great Barrier Reef's tourism industry include the fact that some tourist Reef walk which damages the coral beyond self repair. Some tourists take parts of the coral as a souvenir and others accidentally break the coral which also hurts the Reef system. The development on some of the islands can cause land degradation and displacement of the wildlife around. These developments can include tourist sites, more boats and wildlife interactivity.


Actions that could be taken to ensure the safety and longevity of the reef can be less development of tourism because of some of the negative affects of it. The elimination of the crown of thorns starfish will stop the coral being killed by the starfish and large outbreaks of the crown of thorns starfish can devastated whole reefs. Pollution from runoff is not sustainable in the fact that it lowers the water quality in the reef. Most of the runoff is from farms, the pesticides used in the farms go into the water and it contains heavy metals like lead, mercury and arsenic.

The crown of thorns starfish feasts on coral and is responsible for 25% of the decline on coral cover over the last 30 years. Many plans have been put down to stop the starfish, long and short-term plans by the GBRMPA (Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority). It has been studied that the starfish break out in cycles approximately every 17 years. It breeds during the warmer months form October to February. A fairly large femal crown of thorns starfish can lay up to 65 million eggs. The main predators of the starfish are giant triton snail, starry pufferfish, the humphead Maori wrasse and the titan trigger fish.


To help the management of the Great Barrier Reef you could do many things to ensure the safety of our reefs. Reducing pollution is a big factor in helping the reefs especially if you are a farming near the reefs as the runoff from your farms hurts the reef. On a local level you could organise a fund raiser and send the money to an organisation that helps with the reefs problems. On a regional scale you could get your whole region to plant a tree, this helps reduce runoff and help reverse global warming. Nationally you could get into marine biology and help big companies stop some of the problems that are destroying the reefs.


Many changes are occurring constantly in the reef and around it. Global warming changes the temperature of the ocean, therefore making it harder for coral to survive and this leads to bleached coral. Some fish prefer certain temperatures so they leave their original habitats to go to a colder or warmer place. This increases chick mortality rates in predatory sea birds. Climate change also affects where sea turtles live as well. Pollution of the reef mainly comes from farms near the reef. 80% of the land near the the reef is farms for sugar cane and beef cattle. The overgrazing in the farms causes increased runoff, the substances carried in the runoff can include chemicals like pesticides, fertilisers and herbicides.

Climate change is happening because of heat trapping gases such as methane and nitrous oxide are coming from agriculture and other human activities. Carbon dioxide is a heat trapping gas made by the burning of coal, oil and gas as well as deforestation and respiration. The abundance of the gases increases the atmospheric temperature and this increases sea temperature with it.

The Great Barrier Reef is polluted because many toxic chemicals are being used on farms and being put in the reef through runoff. Also people dump waste into rivers, water ways and lakes these all end up in the sea and pollute our oceans. About 3.5 billion tons of plastic and other materials are dumped into our oceans every year. These plastics take several decades to decompose.

Most people are certain today's kids will see the end of the reef. By 2050 the reef could be history. The GBRMPA is taking a more moderate view to managing the reef for more generation to come. The GBRMPA have put in a six-year plan to help the reef get healthier. It has taken steps to help the more sensitive areas of the reef.

  • Crown of thorns starfish. The crown of thorns starfish feeds on coral it is responsible for 25% of the reef decline in th least 30 years. Many plans have been implemented to remove these poisonous starfish from the reefs. The fact that a large female will lay up to 65 million eggs is part of why this is so difficult. Divers all year round have been dispatched to deal with and physically pull out the starfish fro the waters. A breakthrough has recently been discovered for divers to quickly cull the creatures, they inject it with a toxic and it will break apart within 24 hours. Before this breakthrough divers had to inject it more than 20 times to get the same affect.
  • Pollution is contaminating the waters in the reef. When big floods occur many bad chemicals end up in the sea from towns and farms. These chemicals hurt the reef and its inhabitants. Many river leading to where the reef is are polluted heavily, most of the pollution in the rivers is from farm runoff because of some of the toxic chemicals they use for agriculture. Millions of dollars are being put into the water quality problems of the reef, this money come from Australian and Queensland governments and it goes to the reef trust.
  • Climate change is bleaching coral because when the temperatures rise in the air they do the same in the ocean. The coral in reefs like to have very precise temperatures or they will not survive. Even a slight change in temperature say 1-1.5 degrees Celsius for six-weeks can cause extensive bleaching to sensitive small coral. Obviously climate change can The stopped by just Australia it must be a global project. The amount of green house gases is thought to decline because of the popularity of solar, wind and hydro for power instead of coal. Still the problem persists and will for years to come unless strict rules are put in place about our toxic emissions into the environment.


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