The Great Barrier Reef’s Development and History
- The Great Barrier Reef, which spans more than 2,600 kilometres and occupies an area of the water measuring 344,400 kilometers2, is the world’s largest living thing. It has 900 islands, 2,900 distinct reefs, and is visible from space. It is home to 6 different kinds of sea turtles, 133 different shark and ray species, and 1,625 different fish species.
- The reef did not suddenly start to expand and change. In actuality, it took almost 20 million years to form. Like a living organism, the reef is constantly expanding and will continue to diversity and change as time goes on.
- After the Last Glacial Maximum, or the apex of the Ice Age when glaciers covered the majority of the world and sea levels were at an all-time low, our current reef started to emerge. It is simple to see why our current reef differs so greatly from where it first evolved given that sea levels were 160 metres lower and that the two events occurred 20,000 years ago.
Why Is The Reef So Far Away From The Coast?
- Across the world, glaciers held the majority of the ocean’s water, greatly changing the ocean and its surroundings. The only remnants of long-submerged mountains and islands on the old coast of Australia are the reefs and cays that lie off its shores.
Various Reef Types
- It took many thousands of years for the Great Barrier Reef to develop into what we see today. Barrier reefs are reefs that run along to the shore with a lagoon separating them from the shore (a usually circular reef that surrounds a lagoon).
Incredible Great Barrier Reef Facts.
- The reef is vast, with over 3,000 reefs, 900 islands, and 2,600km. Space views this amazing life system. Imagine Italy off the coast of Australia to get a sense of its size.
Species abound there.
Here are some of the reef’s more stunning groups:
- 30 whales, dolphins, and porpoises
- 6 turtle species
- 17 marine snakes
- Some 1,500 fish species—10% of the world’s fish—live in the Great Barrier Reef.
The coral is alive.
- So tell me, what is a coral? Little organisms called polyps, which have a sac-like body and developing tentacles, create corals. Coral polyps employ calcium and carbonate ions from the seawater to build a strong outer skeleton to protect their soft bodies, giving corals their rock-like shape. Due to their interaction with the algae that dwell next to them, these polyps are able to survive. The algae take in sunlight from the sun and then provide food for the coral. The corals’ vivid colours are also a result of the algae. The polyps of corals emerge from their outer casings at night to capture passing tiny animals since corals are in fact nocturnal.
More than you might realise, the reef is out there.
- Although they flourish in warm, shallow seas, coral reefs are not necessarily near to land. A coral reef that runs parallel to the beach but is separated from it by a sizable lagoon is referred to as a barrier reef. If it’s a windy day, visitors to the reef might be astonished to learn that it could take them between 45 minutes and two hours to get by boat to the diving spot.
There are a lot of dangers to the reef.
- Regrettably, the primary threat to the reef’s survival is climate change. Bleaching and, regrettably, eventual death of the coral are made more likely by rising water temperatures and pollutants. Tourism may also be a factor, as swimmers and divers may touch the reef and cause damage. They may also leave behind trash and contaminate the water with sunscreen and other chemicals.
Not all bleached reefs are dead reefs.
- Coral bleaching happens when environmental changes cause the polyps to eject the algae that are essential to its survival. As the algae are what give the corals their colour, a reef devoid of algae will undoubtedly be bleached and colourless. Although not all corals would die right away after this incident, they are left without their main food source and are consequently more likely to suffer from malnutrition and disease. Corals can bounce back after bleaching as long as the environment returns to normal and they are not put under too much stress too soon.