Many things have been discovered in our oceans by divers, from lost sunken ships, buried treasures of old, to possible proof of ancient civilizations. But one thing that has fascinated me for years is the Great Barrier Reef. You can find images online of beautiful and vivid coral, fish, and other amazing aquatic life. Its on my list of places to see before I leave this world.
Being the world’s largest reef system it is home to over 2,900 separate reefs with more than 900 islands covering the expanse of the reef. In fact, the reef is so large that it can be seen from space. It is home to thirty different species of porpoises, whales and dolphins, 17 species of sea snakes and over 1,500 species of fish. In fact, 10% of our world’s entire species of fish are found within the Great Barrier reef. And lastly, about 330 different species of ascidians, also known as sea squirts, reside on the reef system.
Its not only people who come to visit the reef either. It has been recorded that 6 species of sea turtles visit the reef to breed, and 215 species of birds come to roost or nest on the surrounding islands.
I bet you’re wondering how such a huge host to living things was formed? The Great Barrier Reef is an ancient place that is mainly composed of coral; live coral that dies and becomes a foundation for more live coral to grow. There are generations of coral formed on the reef and it has been dated as far back as 20 million years. The huge stone walls of the reef are covered in all form of living organisms, such as anemones, algae, crustaceans, sponges, coral, starfish, snakes, turtles, worms. Fish and a plethora of plant species.
In recent decades we have heard a lot about the fate of the Great Coral Reef and the many things that threaten its delicate ecosystem. Climate change is the largest of these threats with warmer temperatures in the ocean putting a significant amount of stress on the coral, causing the coral to bleach. Coral bleaching is when the coral expels all of the algae that symbiotically loves within the coral system from it tissues, causing the coral to turn white. In 1998 and 2002 there was a mass coral-bleaching event that took place. The 2002 event was the worst resulting in over 50% of the coral to experience some degree of bleaching.
The Great Barrier Reef’s health has also been affected by the run-offs of river catchments that have pollution in them. Tourism can also be a problem, with over 2 million people visiting the reef each year, and needs to be closely monitored to keep this delicate ecosystem safe. Many groups are working to help keep this beautiful underwater wonder safe and in good health. It would be a shame for us to lose something so wonderful that is an extremely important asset to our planet.