One of the Wonders of the Natural World

barrier reef
The world s largest coral reef is the Great Barrier Reef which composes of roughly 3000 individual reefs and 900 islands. The reef is located in the Coral Sea off the coast of Queensland s in the northeast of Australia. The Great Barrier Reef is one of the wonders of the natural world it is the world s largest coral reef ecosystem. It was declared a World Heritage in 1981.

More than two million people visit the reef each year generating more than 2 billion Austailian Dollors in tourism dollars. Most of the visitors come to go out on the reef.

A scourge of the reef is bleaching where the corals have died in large numbers. This phenomenon is not exclusive to Queensland s Great Barrier Reef, but has been observed on reefs throughout the world. It is thought the bleaching has been caused by rises in water temperature, although the evidence is not conclusive.

Another one of the dangers to the habitat is the Crown of Thorns starfish. Since the 1960s the Crown of Thorns have been destroying the corals which make up the reef.

The Reef supports a diversity of life, 30 species of whales, porpoises and dolphins, have been recorded in the Great Barrier Reef. Six species of sea turtle come to the reef to breed Olive Ridley, Green Sea Turtle, Hawksbill Turtle, Leatherback Sea Turtle, Loggerhead Sea Turtle and Flat Back Turtles. Over 200 species of birds live on the Reef, including the Roseate Tern and White bellies Sea Eagle. More than 1500 species of fish live on the reef, including the, Red Bass, Clownfish, Red Throat Emperor, and several species of Snappers and Coral Trout. 400 species of corals, both soft corals and hard coral are found on the reef.

Due to its vast, warm clear waters and its accessibility from the floating guest facilities called live aboards, the reef is a very popular destination for the tourists, especially scuba divers. Many cities along the Queensland coast offer boat trips to the reef on a daily basis. Several continental islands have been turned into holiday resorts.

Townsville and Cairns are the largest of these coastal cities with populations of approximately 150,000 each. Unlike most reef environments worldwide, the Reef is the only one where the water catchments area is a home to the industrialised urban areas and where extensive areas of coastal lands and rangelands have been used for agricultural and pastoral purposes.