Great Barrier Reef

Along with Uluru, the Great Barrier Reef is what comes to mind when international visitors hear the word ‘Australia’. The Great Barrier Reef is the largest reef system in the world, stretching along almost the entire Queensland coast before finally dissipating at Papua New Guinea. The reef is also the most diverse ecosystem on the planet, made up of 3000 individual coral reefs supporting over 2000 fish species, 500 molluscs, six species of marine turtles and more than 30 marine mammals, including humpback whales, dugongs and dolphins. There are over 900 islands and they fall into two geological categories. Coral cays are islands that began as sections of reef exposed above sea level. Wind and waves ground them down into sand, and then seeds that washed ashore or were deposited by birds began to grow. Continental islands, on the other hand, are not strictly part of the reef, as they were once part of the mainland. World Heritage status protects the reef, although there are growing concerns that global warming is causing rising sea temperatures and coral bleaching.

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