Is the Great Barrier Reef alive? Not only is the reef alive it is the largest living structure on the whole planet. Filled with corals, fish and all kinds of different plant and animal life the reef is incredibly rich and diverse and we need to make sure it stays protected. The reef stretches more than 2,000 kilometers and covers more than 14 degrees of latitude, it can even be seen from space. Have a closer look at just how amazing it is.
Plants and Animals in the Reef
The maze of colorful reefs is home to thousands of different species of plants and animals. Living within the reef system are turtles and crocodiles that have been here since prehistoric times and you can study how species have evolved by looking at the plants and animals that live within the reef. There are more than 600 varieties of coral, 100’s of species of jellyfish, 500 species of worms, 1600 types of fish and the list goes on. Scientists have been exploring the flora and fauna at the reef for almost 200 years. There are still much that they have to learn.
Pollution and the Reef
There has been plenty coverage in scientific magazines about the health of the reef. While claims of the Great Barrier Reef being dead are largely exaggerated the reef is still in grave danger. Pollution along with climate change have caused the death of almost 20% of the reef and that is a huge problem. The reef is a “rainforest in the ocean” meaning it not only provides oxygen but it is one of the most biodiverse areas on the planet and we need to ensure its survival.
Great Barrier Reef Marine Park
The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park has the world’s largest coral reef system that includes more than 600 continental islangs, 150 mangrove islands, and 3,000 coral reefs, to say it is amazing really doesn’t do it justice. The water here is more than 100 feet deep and it can stretch to almost 250 km at its widest. The park was created in 1975 by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Act and it includes the airspace above and the seabed below. This area is also a dedicated World Heritage Site.
The Great Barrier Reef is an incredible part of the planet’s ecosystem with the biggest selection of plant and animals species anywhere on the planet, and yes the reef is very much alive and full of reef safe fish. If we want to keep it that way we are going to have to do more to protect it. Reducing wastes that are dumped into our oceans and into our air, if the reef dies we won’t be long in following it.
Have you ever wondered how coral reefs are made? The formation of coral reefs is a pretty interesting phenomenon and they provide a huge and varied ecosystem that thrives under the water. Coral reefs are often referred to as the “rainforest under the sea” and almost a quarter of all underwater species call the coral reef home. For the most part reefs are found in the tropics near the shoreline although there are some reefs in the deep sea. Let’s look at how they are made.
The First Stages of the Reef
A reef begins when coral larvae attach itself to the rocks and soil near the coast. The larvae need to attach themselves in an area where there is enough sunlight filtering through the water and these larvae turn into polyps which excretes calcium carbonate that forms the exoskeleton. The calcium carbonate provides a substrate for even more polyps to attach themselves eventually forming a coral reef. At the same time algae also attaches to the structure and so do other plants and that makes the reef stronger. The initial reefs are referred to as fringing reefs, over time the calcium carbonate in the reef converts to limestone because of pressure.
Eventually the fringing reefs come together and form a border of sorts along the coast with the calcium carbonate luring in more polyps and the space eventually becomes filled in. It can form a ring around an island and a line along the coast, the colors and formations are absolutely beautiful. Since they are in relatively shallow water the sunlight helps the reef to grow. The biggest reef is The Great Barrier Reef in Australia here is a closer look at it.
Coral reefs have a huge and complex ecosystem that is absolutely fascinating. There is a huge variety of marine life including fish, algae, sponges and loads of other species that rely on the reef for food and shelter. The bigger the reef the more species that you will find in there. Let’s look at some of the more common species found in a reef.
- Sponges: These act as filters for the sediment within the reef and are crucial to the function of the reef. They take large large globules and turn them into much smaller particles that can be then absorbed by the reef.
- Fish: There are more than 5,000 different kinds of fish that live in the coral reef, fish are a vital part of the food chain and they live within the corals.
- Invertebrates: These are the sea urchins, slugs and anemones and if you ever going diving near a reef you will see plenty of them.
Coral reefs are a complex and biodiverse ecosystem that are in danger because of pollution and man invading their natural habitats. We need to bring awareness to the issue and make sure that we protect this delicate yet vital part of our oceans.
The reef system made up of more than 2,900 individual reefs and about 900 islands that stretch for over 2,300 kilometres. It is located off the coast of Australia.
- The reef is considered officially as the largest living thing on earth.
- The reef is seen from outer space.
Being located at an expansive bio diverse area, there are potentially many things for students to engage in. Below are some of the best activities students can engage in so as to get the most out of the trip.
1). Whitewater Rafting
The reef boasts of internationally recognised rafting destinations which can be ideal for visiting students to get a taste of. All rafting is done under the watch and supervision of a qualified instructor ensuring safety for everyone. The rapids range from a grade one to four therefore ensuring even a novice has a place in this adventure.
2). Whitehaven Beach
Whitehaven beach is a stretch of pure white sand, students can visit from across the globe to experience the beauty it possesses. Within the same locality students can also visit the Heart reef which is famous for coral arrangements that resemble the shape of the heart.
3). Hot Air Ballooning
What better experience than to take to the air in a classical hot air balloon that will provide students with a breathtaking view. From the skies students can experience the sheer size.
At the months of November to January students can catch a glimpse of the endangered loggerhead turtles as the come ashore to nest. The eggs hatch during the months of January through to match whereby you can see the small turtles make the race of their life down the beach into the ocean.
Here students can face their fears by coming into close proximity to wild crocodiles but within a controlled environment. At Hartley students can see crocodiles being fed which is an amazing spectacle considering how high the crocodiles can leap for the meat dangled to them.
Other extra activities to consider include:
- Visit the Australian amour and artillery museum.
- Water sports like surfing.
- A visit to lake McKenzie.
- Paperbark forest nature walk.
A visit to the reef is both an unforgettable and emotional experience. Described by Sir David Attenborough as the most amazing thing he had ever set eyes on, the reef is limitless of activities that students can engage in. All it requires is a level of planing in order to get the most out of the visit.