Introduction to the Reef
Spanning over 2,300 kilometers, the Great Barrier Reef is the world's largest coral system. Visible from space, it comprises thousands of reefs, hosting a biodiversity paradise with over 1,500 fish species.
Complex Reef Ecosystem
The Reef's ecosystem includes 411 types of hard coral and one-third of the world's soft corals, nurturing sea turtles, mollusks, and hundreds of bird species, each playing a role in this intricate marine community.
Rising temperatures prompt coral bleaching, a stress response that expels symbiotic algae and turns corals white. Without algae, corals can starve, disrupting the entire ecosystem that depends on them.
The Reef's structure is crafted by tiny coral polyps, which secrete limestone to form protective barriers. These corals build up over millennia, creating the vast reef formations we see today.
Reef Conservation Efforts
The Reef faces threats from overfishing, pollution, and climate change. Initiatives like the Reef 2050 Plan aim to protect and manage the reef through sustainable practices and scientific research.
The Reef holds great cultural value for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, with sea country traditions and stories deeply connected to this marine expanse for over 60,000 years.
Studying the Reef, scientists have discovered new species and medicinal compounds. Its biodiversity inspires innovations in pharmaceuticals, providing potential treatments for illnesses worldwide.