The Great Barrier Reef off of Gold Coast Australia, is one of the most significant and most important eco systems in the world. But, like the Amazon and any other amazing eco havens on the world, it is always in danger, mostly by the worlds most invasive species: Humans. Maybe by understanding some facts about Great Barrier more, more people will be moved to raise their voices and help preserve this amazing natural phenomenon.
Interesting Facts about the Great Barrier Reef
1. One of the seven natural wonders of the world, the Great Barrier reef is the largest living structure on the planet and can be seen from space.
2. The Great Barrier Reef is made up with over 3000 different reefs, each with its own ecosystem
3. Coral reefs take up less than one percent of the oceans, yet contain 1/4 of all marine life. And the Great Barrier is the biggest of all.
4. There are 400 species of hard coral, 300 of soft coral, 1600 species of fish, 134 species of shark and Rays, 30 species of whale and dolphin, 6 species of turtle, 15 species of sea snake, 3000 species of mollusk and much more on the reef.
5. There are over 100 habitats on or around the great Barrier, besides the actual reef, in and out of the water. The reef we explore is only around 7% of the Barrier.
6. All the habitats of the Great Barrier interconnect and are vital to the well-being of the actual reef, making it one of the most complex and diverse ecosystems on earth.
7. The Great Barrier is over 2000 kilometers long, and the area between the Reef and the mainland are almost twice the area of the British isles.
8. Two thirds of this are in-between is a giant shifting sandy desert, or lagoon, but that also has plenty of life. Such as garden eels, rays and burrowing fish and shrimp.
9. Sting rays have special muscles that allow it to detect tiny beating hearts, making it easy to find prey in these sands. Hammerheads are THIER biggest enemies.
10. Nearly half of all fish grow up in nurseries among soft coral, making them vital to their numbers. Most in the soft coals in the lagoon between the Barrier and mainland. Eventually making their way east to the main reef later.
11. During the last ice age, sea levels were 120 meters lower than they are today, and the whole Barrier area was covered in forest. Then the ice melted about 10000 years ago and the Barrier slowly grew, creating the sheltered lagoon behind it.
12. There are 600 small islands scattered about this lagoon that appeared when the waters rose. On some islands are huge monitor lizards that feed on giant grasshoppers. Again, each of these islands and habitats are an important part of the whole system.
13. In the forests of these islands in the lagoon is giant fruit bats, with 3 foot wing spans. They dwell in trees and not caves.
14. The SS Yongala is a 100 meter passenger ship that sank in the lagoon in 1911 at around 30 meters deep. It is a huge fish sanctuary as well as tourist attraction for divers. It is regarded by many as the greatest wildlife wreck on earth.
15. After 100 years underwater in the barren plains of the lagoon, the SS Yongala has turned into a haven for fish and reef, much like an underwater island. It boast more than 100 fish species and many types of reef living here. The current brings in so much food that fish stay here their whole lives, rather than making their way to the reef like the rest of the lagoon fish.
16. The hulls of the wreck are completely covered in soft corals, attracting and sheltering millions of fish in the otherwise featureless landscape. There are even 1000 pound groupers hunting here.
17. Arguably, there is more concentration of life on the 100 meters of the Yangala wreck, then there is on the reef itself. (Why doesn’t Australia sink more ships?!)
18. Vast meadows of shallow water sea grass surrounds the lagoon islands, where dugongs thrive. Dugongs are one of Australia’s threatened species, but there are still more of them (11,000) in the Great Barrier waters than anywhere on earth.
19. Mangroves of the Barrier grow in brackish water where no other trees can, where salt and fresh water meet. They are instrumental to the health of the Reef. The huge weave and tangle of roots trap river sentiments and create mud, where tons of tiny species thrive, and the bigger fish can feed before making their way to to reef. Many vital predators of the Reef start their lives in the sanctuary of the mangroves. Then later make the journey across the lagoon the the reef.
20. The most dangerous fish in the lagoon or reef is the box jelly fish. It has 24 eyes and 60 venomous tentacles with enough poison to kill humans.
21. There are huge tropical rain forests on islands in the lagoon that get some of the most rainfall in the world. The forests are vital to the reef because it filters the flood of sentiments that come through the rivers, and would smother the marine life. The rivers on the islands are filtered just enough to feed the reefs, not bury it.
22. Intrusion and clearing of the forests for resorts and sugarcane farms, are destroying its ability to filter the water. Giant sentiment and silt plums can be seen around these islands where the forest has been cleared. Is smothers and kills the sea grass first, then the dugongs and turtles and baby fish die with it. Causing a chain reaction. They are all interdependent and if you kill one they all die.
23. cassowary are the very rare and huge bird that are native to these tropical islands. They are nearly 3 meters high with huge claws. But there are only 2000 in the wild and dwindling.
24. The Great Barrier Reef national park attracts 1.5 million tourists a year, injecting 7 billion dollars a year into the local economy. Making it even more important to the world, and worth saving, even if it didn’t have all the environmental, non monetary benefits.
25. Sandy coral islands in the lagoon are the largest green turtle breeding ground in the world. Some islands have seen 26,000 female turtles in a single night.
26. During low tide, some parts of the reef gets exposed to the open air. Coral polyps retract into their hard reefs, then secrete a slime that works as a sun screen, until the tides come back.
27. When caught out of water on top of the reefs as the tide goes down, tiny Epaulette shark shut off parts of their body so they don’t have to breath, and can walk on the reef or land. It actually thrives by hunting on top of reefs where other fish are caught. It swims in shallow pools then walks up on top of the reef. Making a very unique shark, indigenous to The Great Barrier.
28. Coral is actually herbivores. At night polyps open up and snatch tiny shrimps and things floating in the current. They have jellyfish like tentacles and suck in their prey.
29. The worlds largest synchronized breeding events is when the Barrier’s coral spawns, only a few nights a year during certain moon phases. One these nights, billions of coral eggs and sperm are released, flooding the entire 2000 kilometers of reef. The timing is perfect as there’s a lull in the current, and the thousands of different species of egg and sperm can somehow find each other. Its known as the biggest coral spawning in the world.
30. When the coral spawns, the tiny baby corals join the plankton in the current, which consist of every type of minute fish species. One jar of this plankton-filled water can have thousands of species of coral and fish. And each coral can possibly start its own colony.