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Saturday, 22 August 2009

The Great Barrier Reef

The Great Barrier Reef can be found off the shore of Queensland in northeast Australia. It is known to have the largest coral reef system on earth, with something like 3.000 individual reefs and 900 islands which stretches about 2.600 km over an area of more or less 344.400 square kilometers. This natural beauty contains the world’s largest collection of corals (more than 400 different types of coral). It is also regarded as the world’s biggest single structure made by living organisms. The reef has been built by billions of tiny organisms called coral polyps.

The Reef is home to a huge variety of sea creatures, including many venerable or threatened with extinction species such as the large Green Sea Turtle and the Dugong (Sea Cow). Many dolphins, whales and reptiles have been seen at the Reef. The Great Barrier Reef has become a popular destination for tourists. It possesses tropical islands with the world’s most beautiful beaches. The tourist love to take photos of the reefs natural beauty and many scuba divers are attracted to the breathtaking beauty of the underwater coral gardens.
In recognition of its importance, UNESCO listed The Great Barrier Reef as a world heritage site in 1981. This natural beauty is the only living thing on earth that can be seen from space. It is considered as one of
the Seven Natural Wonders of the World and has once again been nominated for the New 7 Wonders of Nature (the results will be revealed in 2011).

Regrettably, there are threats to the Great Barrier Reef. The impact of humans are among these threats. The crown-of-thorns starfish are eating the coral polyps resulting in an increase in the number of starfish because their natural predator, the triton, is prized by the humans for its shell. This has caused a drop in the triton numbers and an increase in starfish, and the destruction of large areas of coral. Pollution is another problem because coral can only grow on clear water. Oil spills of ships can destroy large sections of the reefs. Visitors walking on the reef also destroy coral.

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