What can make a living structure so valuable that over $200 million dollars are spent (per year!) caring for and protecting it?
What if that structure is a vast ecosystem, supporting life for over 2,000 different species? That ecosystem, known as the Great Barrier Reef, is a 130,000-mile natural masterpiece. And it deserves all the attention.
Find out why this giant congregation of billions of coral polyps is worth more than a quick thought with these ten mind-blowing facts.
1. Natural Wonders of the World
There are seven wonders of the ancient world, and there are seven natural wonders of the world. The Unesco World Heritage Centre labelled the Great Barrier Reef a natural wonder in 1981. By 2021, the reef has declined by 50 percent.
The only ancient wonder still standing is The Great Pyramid of Giza. Fire and earthquakes caused the destruction of four out of seven ancient wonders. However, it's the human influence that's putting the seven Natural Wonders of the World at risk.
There has to be attention and care devoted to keeping our reef and overall our oceans safe from climate change and overfishing, or it could be lost forever.
2. Coral Reef Bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef
Coral bleaching is a response to warming waters where the coral loses its colour caused by tiny symbiotic algae called zooxanthella. Check out this list to learn more.
For those of you looking for a TL;DR — coral need to live off of this algae. When surrounding waters grow too warm, these algae produce toxins inside, causing the coral to expel the toxic algae to survive. This is an extreme but necessary measure, as this algae under stable conditions supplies most of the food for the coral in the form of sugar by the process of photosynthesis. If this warming event persist for too long the coral runs the risk of starving to death.
The coral then makes every attempt to stay alive by feeding from the water column using their tentacles trapping what ever floats by.
The sad fact about coral bleaching on reefs is it causes wide spread destruction! It can cause a shifts from a dynamic coral dominate reef (housing many species of marine organism) to a weedy infested reef which are less biodynamic in their composition of marine species.
Hope for reefs around the world will rely on the us addressing climate change (reducing green house gas emissions) and reducing our insatiable consumption of sea food globally. We need to give our oceans and ecosystems a break! We need to have healthy reefs and oceans to have a healthy planet!
Coral bleaching isn't just a problem for scientists to worry about. It's a problem for everyone. Every person can be part of the solution by reducing their carbon footprint.
3. The Great Barrier Reef Is Generous
Though the Great Barrier Reef coral plays a massive part in the ecosystem, it also provides in other ways as well. Healthy reefs are able to support things like fishing, tourism, and research studies.
Because the Great Barrier Reef draws so much attention, it brings millions of dollars to the Australian economy. It also supports over 64,000 jobs. This, in turn, allows more time and energy to be spent researching ways to better care for it.
4. R-Rated Activities
The reef can detect moon cycles which is link to a special event on the reef called mass coral spawning.
When this event occur on reefs many corals synchronize to release large amounts of sperm and eggs into the water column producing the next generation of corals on the reef.
This occurrence is called 'sex on the reef' and is one of the ways corals reproduce.
5. You Can See It From Space
The Great Barrier Reef is big enough that it dwarfs every state in the U.S. except Texas and Alaska. It's bigger than the United Kingdom, Holland, and Switzerland combined. It's big enough that you can see it from space.
To get an idea of how far the reef stretches along the coastline of Queensland, check out this Great Barrier Reef map.
6. Fish Facts
The Queensland grouper is the largest bony fish found in the Great Barrier Reef. This guy can weigh a whopping 800 plus pounds when fully grown.
The whale shark is the largest cartilaginous fish. Though it’s a rare reef sighting, it is possible. This giant creature can reach over 40,000 pounds and has a skeletal system made from cartilage instead of bone.
7. It Supports Land and Sea Animals
It's not just giant fish (and tiny ones!) that make their home in the Great Barrier Reef.
The reef plays host to six species of sea turtles and 215 species of birds who nest in the reef or on the islands. Dolphins, humpback whales, and microorganisms that are too small for the human eye to see are all part of life in the Great Barrier Reef.
Because the reef cares for thousands of species, an imbalance in climate can be deadly. Great Barrier Reef bleaching doesn’t just stop by killing the reef. The death of coral creates a domino effect that moves from sea to land, from fish to mammal.
8. Diver's Paradise
If you've ever experienced the surreal world of life below sea level, you know why thousands of divers flock to the Great Barrier Reef.
Even though the coral has taken a hit with bleaching, there are still miles of vibrant sites to enjoy. And for those divers looking to see more than marine life, there's an abundance of wreck sites.
In fact, there are 800 recorded ship and boat wrecks. Only a handful of these wrecks have ever been explored!
9. Don't Forget the Islands
It's easy to get stuck on the ocean life of the Great Barrier Reef. However, the reef is not just home to 2,900 reef systems, but 900 islands as well. And 600 of those are continental!
What that means for the traveller the Great Barrier Reef is an unlimited amount of beauty to explore. What it means for the reef is special care needs to be taken to host each and every person who wants to be part of the delicate ecosystem.
It may seem crazy to think a casual dip into the water, or a quick snorkel can create a problem. But if you multiply that one swimmer by millions, it’s easy to imagine the havoc people can cause on the reef.
Don’t worry; there are ways to enjoy this majestic underwater world safely. Practice being a responsible reef guest by using reef-safe sunscreen and taking care not to touch or trample on these beautiful ecosystems.
10. Where Rain Forest Meets Reef
With the reef's ability to thrive and sustain life, is it any surprise that it neighbours another Word Heritage site?
The Great Barrier Reef melds its coastline into another remarkable place: the Daintree Rainforest. Also known as the Wet Lands, Daintree is the oldest continually surviving rainforest in the world (Daintree History).
The Reef Needs Our Protection
It's easy to assume the Great Barrier Reef can withstand anything. The truth is, it can’t. The human influence on an ecosystem set to operate a certain way can be catastrophic.
With enough care and attention, coral recovery is possible. In fact, restoration projects are underway throughout the world.
How can you take part? The first step is to make sure you're supporting reef conscientious companies, like People4Ocean Sun Care. We're an Australian-based company, and our marine biologists and reef scientists ensure our product contains only reef-friendly ingredients.
By understanding how your actions impact the coral, you can help create a reef-safe world.