Author: Ko Hon Chiu Vincent
The Great Barrier Reef (GBR) extends across a distance of 2,300 km with over 2,900 individual reefs creating the largest coral reef system in the world. This accounts for approximately 10% of the world’s coral reefs. This complex system of reefs is the largest single structure created by living creatures and it may be seen from outer space. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World.
Australia: 344,400 km sq
The Great Barrier Reef off the north-east coast of Australia 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 and some 240 species of birds, six species of turtles, nine species of seahorses, and approximately 215 species of birds. Saltwater crocodiles can be seen in the mangroves and salt marshes along the fringe of the national park. The deeper waters have minke whale, humpback whale, dolphin, and dugongs.
Within the reef there are over 900 islands, ranging from small sandy cays and larger vegetated cays, to large rugged continental islands rising, in one instance, over 1,100 metres above sea level. Collectively these landscapes and seascapes provide some of the most spectacular maritime scenery in the world.
70million football fields is the sheer size of the Great Barrier Reef, covering 346,000km2. One third of the Marine Park is a 'no take' zone.
The Great Barrier Reef is an economic powerhouse, contributing more than $6.4 billion each year to the Australian economy and around 64,000 full-time jobs.
The Belize Reef off the Caribbean coast of Belize is the second longest barrier reef in the world at 290 km, while Ningaloo Reef off the West Australian coast is 280 km long.
Many of the species found in the reef are vulnerable or endangered. It also holds great scientific interest as the habitat of species such as the dugong and the large green turtle, which are threatened with extinction. No other World Heritage property contains such biodiversity. This diversity, especially the endemic species, means the GBR is of enormous scientific and intrinsic importance.
Source: whc.unesco.org, gbrmpa.gov.au, national-parks.org
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