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The Great Barrier Reef

Updated: Oct 24, 2023

The Great Barrier Reef is the world's largest coral reef system composed of over 2,900 individual reefs spanning an area of 348,000 square kilometres. The reef is located in the Coral Sea, off the coast of Queensland, Australia and is one of the richest and most diverse ecosystems on the earth. The reef attracts more than 1.6 million visitors each year and contributes more than $5 billion to the Australian economy.

A photo of The Great Barrier Reef with various tropical fish and the text "The Great Barrier Reef" foregrounded.

Environmental Threats

The health and sustainability of the Great Barrier Reef is currently under threat from a number of factors, including:

  • Crown-of-thorns starfish: These starfish can eat large amounts of coral, and their populations have been increasing in recent years.

  • Poor water quality: Run-off from agriculture, mining, and other industries, including pesticides and fertilisers, can pollute the water around the reef, making it difficult for corals to survive.

  • Species going extinct: The Great Barrier Reef has already lost over half of its coral cover, and it is estimated that another 50% could be lost by 2050. This loss of coral will lead to the extinction of many species that rely on the reef for food and shelter.

  • Coral bleaching: Coral bleaching occurs when coral are stressed, usually by rising water temperatures. When corals bleach, they lose their colourful algae, which can lead to their death. The Great Barrier Reef has experienced multiple coral bleaching events over the past few decades.

Sources & Further Reading

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