The Great Barrier Reef one of the worlds natural wonders is the largest coral reef system spanning two thirds of the eastern coast of Australia from Cape York to Bunderburg and can be seen from outer space. The reef is made up of 2900 coral reefs, 600 islands as well 300 coral cays (a sandy island above a coral reef) which have been forming for more than 20 million years. The Great Barrier reef is home to many different plants and animals but the reef is sick and dying.The reef is recognized internationally as one of the natural wonders of the world and became one of the first coral reefs to be awarded the world heritage status.
The reef met all four criteria for world heritage status. Despite the news of the reef being sick and dying it is known as one of the healthiest reef systems in the world and it represents 10% of the world’s reef systems.The Great Barrier Reef is one of the world’s most popular tourist attractions and brings in an average of two million visitors per year. Tourists experience the reefs beauty by boat, glass bottom boats, scuba diving, snorkeling and helicopter tours. During their amazing adventure the tourists will experience over 30 species of whales, dolphins, porpoises, sharks, algae, anemones, sponges, starfish, mollusks, crustaceans, clams, rays and over 1500 species of tropical fish. Also 6 species of sea turtles come to the reef to breed each year. An amazing 215 species of birds including 22 species of sea birds and 32 species of shore birds nest and roost on the island of the reef as well as 17 species of sea snakes that live in the reef.
Many factors have played a part in the sick and dying reef. Mother nature has caused dramatic damage to the reef like the cyclone in March of this year that caused 28% damage to the reef. Coral is very sensitive to temperature changes, if water temperature rises too quickly the coral will lose its color and die (bleaching). Climate change has caused warmer ocean temperature which has led to stress on the coral and the bleaching effect. There have been three major bleaching events, 1998, 2002, and 2016. In 202 50% of the reef suffered the effects of the bleaching and in 2016 29% of the reef was bleach.
The sediment and pesticide run-off into rivers and oceans is effecting the quality of the ocean water and causing health issues for the reef animals and plant life.The health of the reef would have a devastating effect on the environment. All the amazing plants and animals would lose their habitats and breeding grounds which ultimately would diminish the plants and animals and ultimately lead to extinction of these species. The reef is a protector for the coast and for the inhabitants we need to do all we can to help save this natural wonder from the environmental effects so the plants and animals do not suffer.