Facts about the Great Barrier Reef of Australia

Explore the amazing Great Barrier Reef of Australia! Are you searching for some information about the barrier reef? If so, then look no further, here you'll find all the information you need!

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Size and Location

1. The Great Barrier Reef spans a total distance of over 2,300km (1,300 miles) in length.

2. The second longest barrier reef in the world, the Belize Reef off the Caribbean coast of Belize, only measures 290km (180 miles) in length.

3. It is located in the Coral Sea, off the coast of Queensland, Australia.

4. It starts near Papua New Guinea, the Torres Strait and the top of Cape York in the north, and continues south to near Bundaberg and Fraser Island in the south.

5. The entire marine park covers an area of 344,400 km².

6. This is the size of about 136 million Olympic sized swimming pools or 70 million football fields, which makes it about the size of Germany, the Philippines, Finland or Norway.

7. It is made up of some some 3000 coral reefs, 600 continental islands (islands that sit in shallow waters, existing in 180 metres of water or less), 300 coral cays (small, low-elevation, sandy islands formed on the surface of coral reefs) and about 150 inshore mangrove islands.

8. It is between 60km and 250km in width, and the reef itself is located between 15km and 150km off the coast of Australia.

9. The Great Barrier reef is the largest coral reef system in the world and the park itself is the largest marine park in the world.



Animals of the reef

10. It has some of the highest marine life diversity in the world.

11. By cubic metre, there are more unique species of animals and plants than any other environment in the world.

12. Around 1625 species of fish live within the park, 1400 of which are reef fish, meaning around 10 percent of the worlds total known fish species can be found here.

13. There are around 410 types of hard coral and one-third of the worlds soft corals in the Great Barrier Reef.

14. Approximately 215 species of birds (the exact number of seabirds vs shorebirds is not known) visit the reef to feed, nest or roost on the islands.

15. Six species of sea turtles come to the reef to breed, all of which are threatened

16. Add to this more than 3000 varieties of molluscs, 500 species of worms, 133 varieties of sharks and rays, 100 species of jellyfish, 20 types of reptiles, 14 breeding species of sea snakes and more than 30 species of whales and dolphins all live within the park.

17. The Anemone Fish (or Clown Fish) made famous in the animated movie "Finding Nemo" lives right along the reef.

18. It is estimated that there are still vast numbers of plant and animal species still to be discovered within the reef systems.

19. The reef contains some of the deadliest animals in the ocean, including Box Jellyfish, the Blue Ringed Octopus, and Stone Fish.

20. Steve Irwin, a world famous animal activist from Australia died while scuba diving on the reef. He was stung in the chest, near his heart, by a ray.

Tourist on the reef

21. The reef is a very popular tourist destination with an estimated 2 million people from all over the world visiting it each year.

22. This generates an estimated AU$ 5-6 billion per year in revenue to the Australian economy, in the form of accommodation, tours, souvenirs, food, transport, and other such items.

23. Reef industries, such as tourism and fishing employ about 63,000 people.

Dangers to the reef

24. Unfortunately, like all reefs around the world, there are many dangers that the Great Barrier Reef faces.

25. Global warming is one of the biggest. Coral can only live in a very small temperature and acidity level range. As the oceans warms, acidity levels are rising, putting ever greater stress on the corals. This is also known as coral bleaching.

26. Pollution is also hurting the reef. In times of flooding, water from inland Australia pour into the reef, often containing high levels of fertilisers and other chemicals from farming land and industries.

27. Cyclones also hurt reefs with their massive water and wave surges. The number, and strength, of cyclones seem to be rising, giving the reefs less time to recover.

28. Industrial expansion and cargo container ships are also a big risk to the reef. Unfortunately, a large number of industrial ports have recently been approved by the government right along reef.

29. Tourism also hurts the reef when too many tourists visit too small an area. As such, tourism has to be carefully managed.

Odd facts about the reef

30. It is one of the few Australian features that can be seen from space.

31. It is the only living thing on earth visible from space.

32. It is larger than the Great Wall of China.

33. In recognition of its significance, UNESCO listed the Great Barrier Reef as a World Heritage Site in 1981.

34. The Great Barrier Reef is listed as one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. It is easy to see why!

The Great Barrier Reef is an amazing place. It is full of rare and unique animals and plants. There are many questions about the reef that people have. So let us just jump in and sort out the answers to some of the most common questions that people have.

What is the Great Barrier Reef?

A good description of the Great Barrier Reef is the world's largest coral reef system. It is a system because it is not just one reef, but in fact it is around 3,000 coral reefs, 600 continental islands, 300 coral cays (small, low-elevation, sandy islands formed on the surface of coral reefs) and about 150 inshore mangrove islands.

What sea is the Great Barrier Reef in?

It is located in the Coral Sea (what a great name for a sea that has the worlds largest coral reef system!) off the coast of Queensland, Australia.

How big is the Great Barrier Reef?

The size of the Great Barrier Reef is huge. The entire marine park covers an area of 344,400 km². This is the size of about 136 million Olympic sized swimming pools or 70 million football fields, which makes it about the size of Germany, the Philippines, Finland or Norway.

How long is the Great Barrier Reef?

There seems to be some confusion between people about the length of the reef system, with many different websites stating anywhere between 2,300 kms - 3,000 kms. However, according the the official Australian Government Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority website, it is 2,300 kms long. Which is still very long. If you walked 30 kms a day, it would take you two and a half months to walk the length of it.

How deep is the Great Barrier Reef?

It has an average depth of 35 metres along its inner reefs, while on the outer reefs the continental slopes extend down to depths of more than 2,000 metres. But for the average person visiting the reef a depth of 35 meters would be about what you'd expect to encounter.

What is the Great Barrier Reef made of?

Reefs. And lots of them. Around 3,000 reefs to be exact. Reefs themselves are made up of corals. Coral is in fact an animal (called a Coral Polyp) not a plant. When there is enough hard corals together they form reefs.

Corals make a calcium carbonate skeleton that looks similar to a rock and have a symbiotic relationship with plant-like cells called zooxanthellae. They build these skeletons for protection and support. For more information about corals I recommend this excellent website: http://www.teachoceanscience.net.

how was the Great Barrier Reef formed?

As mentioned above, hard corals build skeletons for protection and support. To do this, a coral polyp secretes layer upon layer of calcium carbonate underneath its body. As time goes by, the skeleton grows larger and larger, and the polyp lives on its outside edge. So in fact, the Great Barrier Reef is nothing more than masses of old coral skeletons.

How old is the Great Barrier Reef?

The CRC Reef Research Centre estimates the age of the present, living reef structure at 6,000 to 8,000 years old. (this is according to the official wikipedia page on the Great Barrier Reef, which can be found here.

Great Barrier Reef ecosystem?

There are many different ecosystems at work in the Great Barrier Reef, and there are 14 coastal ecosystems of which are considered to be "highly important" to the healthy functioning of the reef in general.

They are: coral reefs, lagoon floor, islands, open water, sea grasses, coastline, estuaries, freshwater wetlands, forested floodplain, heath and shrublands, grass and sedgelands, woodlands, forests and rainforests. It is quite a complex topic, for more detailed information you can have a look at the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority website.

What is the Great Barrier Reef climate / temperature like?

Due to its tropical location, the reef has warm and sunny weather almost all year round. The water is warm enough that you can swim all year long.

It has two seasons, unlike the standard four seasons that temporal locations have. These seasons are the Wet and Dry seasons. During the dry season it is cooler and there is almost never any rain. During the wet season it it humid, warmer and it buckets down rain.

The Dry season (or winter) typically starts in May and ends in October. There is lots of sunshine, fresh breezes and low humidity. The Wet season (or summer) is typically from November to April. It refreshes the region with tropical downpours in an afternoon and the occasional dramatic electrical storms and cyclones.

November and March Tropical North Queensland is home to the box jellyfish, so it is recommended you only swim in special enclosures that are erected around most popular swimming beaches. There can also be crocodiles in the area - you should always check with locals if it is safe to swim.

 
Jan
Feb
Mar
Apr
May
Jun
Jul
Aug
Sept
Oct
Nov
Dec

Max Temp in°C
31.5
31.1
30.5
29.2
27.5
27.8
25.6
26.5
27.8
29.4
30.6
31.4

Min Temp in°C
23.6
23.7
23.0
21.5
19.9
17.6
17.0
17.5
18.6
20.5
22.2
23.3



 
Jan
Feb
Mar
Apr
May
Jun
Jul
Aug
Sept
Oct
Nov
Dec

Max Temp in °F
88.7
88.0
86.9
84.6
27.5
81.5
78.1
79.7
82.0
84.9
87.1
88.5

Min Temp in °F
74.5
74.7
73.4
70.7
67.8
63.7
62.6
63.5
65.5
68.9
72.0
73.9



 
Jan
Feb
Mar
Apr
May
Jun
Jul
Aug
Sept
Oct
Nov
Dec

Humidity (%)
75
78
78
78
77
74
74
71
67
66
67
70

Av Rainfall (mm)
405
434
424
197
99
49
30
27
35
38
89
175



For more information on weather around the Great Barrier Reef visit the Bureau of Meteorology.

What is the Great Barrier Reef water temperature?

Because the reef is in a tropical location, the water temperature is very warm all year round.

Here are the average long term water temperatures at Davies Reef diving platform, which is located close to Townsville, a little south of the centre of the reef.

 
Jan
Feb
Mar
Apr
May
Jun
Jul
Aug
Sept
Oct
Nov
Dec

°C
28.0
28.6
28.5
27.7
26.3
25.0
23.7
23.2
23.6
24.7
26.2
27.1

°F
82.4
83.5
83.3
81.9
79.3
77.0
74.7
73.8
74.5
76.5
79.2
80.8


These temperatures are at a depth of 4 metres. These temperatures are even warmer at the surface.

This data was kindly provided by data.aims.gov.au.

Location / Maps

For more details please go to the Great Barrier Reef maps & location page.

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