Great Barrier Reef
About the Area
There are an estimated 1,900 species of fish, approximately 350 species of hard-reef-building corals, more than 4,000 mollusc species, and over 400 species of sponge. In addition, these reefs harbour important nesting sites for numerous seabird species.
Found within this ecosystem are unique habitats and breeding sites for the largest populations of Dugongs (Dugong dugon), and Saltwater crocodiles (Crocodylus porosus). Also found are Green sea turtles (Chelonia mydas), Flatback turtles (Natator depressa), Hawksbill sea turtles (Eretmochelys imbricata), Leatherback sea turtles (Dermochelys coriacea), and Olive ridley turtles (Lepidochelys olivacea).
Other species of interest include the Greater crested tern (Thalasseus bergii), Black cod (Epinephelus daemelii), Humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae), Minke whale (Balaenoptera acutorostrata), Killer whale (Orcinus orca), Bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus), Irrawaddy river dolphin (Orcaella brevirostris), Indo-Pacific humpback dolphin (Sousa chinensis), and the Spinner dolphin (Stenella longirostris).
Eutrophication, especially related to runoff from agricultural development (e.g., sugar cane), reduces coral reef diversity and spatial cover, while dumping of dredge spoil in the sea, adversely affects reefs by increasing turbidity and sedimentation.
Oil exploration, production, and their related dangers - e.g., accidental oil spills from islands and especially from passing ships - represent a threat. Overfishing, especially trawl and line fisheries, has a strong impact on the local marine fauna. Outbreaks of crown-of-thorns starfish (Acanthaster planci) have occurred, destroying a high proportion of hard coral cover.
Northeast coast of Australia
Why was the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) named a World Heritage site?
Approximately 1,500 to 2,000 kilometres long, stretching along Australia's Eastern coast, from Cape York down to Brisbane - the GBR is the only living organism visible from outer space! It is also one of the 7 natural wonders of the world where coral reefs have been growing for more than 20 million years. All reasons enough for the United Nations to declare it a World Heritage site in 1981.