Great Barrier Reef in Australia – UNESCO World Heritage
Australia, officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a sovereign country comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania and numerous smaller islands. It is the largest country in Oceania and the world’s sixth-largest country by total area.
The Great Barrier Reef is the world’s largest coral reef system composed of over 2,900 individual reefs and 900 islands stretching for over 2,300 kilometres over an area of approximately 344,400 square kilometres. The reef is located in the Coral Sea, off the coast of Queensland, Australia.
The Great Barrier Reef is one of the seven wonders of the natural world, and pulling away from it, and viewing it from a greater distance, you can understand why. It is larger than the Great Wall of China and the only living thing on earth visible from space.
The Great Barrier Reef is a site of remarkable variety and beauty on the north-east coast of Australia. It contains the world’s largest collection of coral reefs, with 400 types of coral, 1,500 species of fish and 4,000 types of mollusc. It also holds great scientific interest as the habitat of species such as the dugong (‘sea cow’) and the large green turtle, which are threatened with extinction.
Half of the Great Barrier Reef has been bleached to death since 2016. Mass coral bleaching, a global problem triggered by climate change, occurs when unnaturally hot ocean water destroys a reef’s colorful algae, leaving the coral to starve.
The Great Barrier Reef illustrates how extensive the damage can be: Thirty percent of the coral perished in 2016, another 20 percent in 2017. The effect is akin to a forest after a devastating fire. Much of the marine ecosystem along the reef’s north coast has become barren and skeletal with little hope of recovery.
The reef has risen on the shallow shelf fringing the Australian continent, in warm waters that have enabled the corals to flourish (they cannot exist where average temperatures fall below 70 °F [21 °C]).
Australians, indeed the whole world, loves the Great Barrier Reef and its breathtaking wildlife. Our Traditional Owners have a profound spiritual connection with the Reef and few can dive or snorkel in its clear waters without being moved. In biological terms, the Reef is home to a treasure trove of plants and animals, many of them as yet unknown to science.