The Great Barrier Reef – Australia’s Underwater Wonderland

The Great Barrier Reef is made up of almost three thousand individual reefs of coral. You can find it off the coast of Queensland in the Coral Sea. An interesting fact about the reef is that it's the world's most prominent single structure created by living organisms. It is so large that you can even see it from space. It was upgraded to a World Heritage Site back in 1981. Historians also believe that the reef was a large part of the Aboriginal Australian and Torres Strait Islander people's culture and spiritual beliefs. Those

Tourism

The reef is a popular tourist destination that attracts a minimum of two million people per year. People come from all over the world to see the vast biodiversity that thrives in the waters. The Great Barrier Reef is home to almost ten thousand known species. And keep in mind that scientists make discoveries each year, such as the 2017 discovery of a new species of branching coral. The reef attracts mostly scuba divers and snorkelers. If you aren't a fan of the underwater experience, you can go on one of the many boat tours and cruises. Other popular attractions are underwater observatories, glass-bottomed boats, and helicopter flights. Although tourism is prevalent, there is concern that it is harmful to the reef.

Environmental Concerns

Despite all the precautions made since its discovery, the coral reef is still in grave danger. The corals and algae work together to create and sustain the ecosystem of the reef. Due to climate change and the rising temperatures of the waters, the algae produce a toxic product that harms the coral instead of helping it survive. In turn, without the corals to protect, the algae are mostly exterminated by the rise of the water temperatures. Climate change also affects other species that live in the coral reef, such as some fish species and the population of sea turtles.

Pollution and declining water quality are also threatening the Great Barrier Reef. The main pollution threats to the reef are extensive use of fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides on the farm ground near the river that flows toward the reef. Those chemicals get to the reef thanks to run-off, which is the excessive flow of water because the rain arrives quicker than the soil can absorb it and thus flowing to the reef and taking those chemicals from the neighboring farms with it.

There are also other factors, thanks to which the Great Barrier Reef is in danger. Some of those factors are:

  • Shark Culling
  • Shipping
  • Overfishing
  • Crown of thorns starfish outbreaks
  • Pollution from mining
  • Eutrophication
  • Loss of coastal wetland

A study published in 2018 stated that one-third of the coral reef suffered substantial damage from coral bleaching, which is the scientific term of corals dying. The Australian government formed the “Reef 2050 Plan” in 2015, which lists methods by which to protect the reef. While the plan suggests protective measures such as reef restoration, improving water quality, or killing predatory starfish, it doesn't address the root of the problem – climate change.