Interesting Facts about the Great Barrier Reef

Everyone knows Australia is one of the most picturesque countries in the world. And there’s plenty to love about each major attraction across the country. But if you’re looking for a coastal area that has it all, you can’t go past the Great Barrier Reef. It’s safe to say, this part of Australia isn’t just a sight to see but also a sea of endless wonder. 

Featuring thousands of species of fish and over 400 types of coral, this aquatic explosion is a must-see for any Aussie tourist. Most importantly, it’s also an ecosystem in need. What better time to learn some interesting facts about the Great Barrier Reef? Here are 20 facts you might not have known about this amazing place:

1. The Great Barrier Reef in Australia is the Only Location on the Planet Where Two World Heritage Sites Intersect

The Great Barrier Reef is located off the coast of Queensland, Australia, and is situated right next to the Daintree Rainforest. The Daintree Rainforest is the world’s oldest tropical rainforest and is said to be about 135 million years old and might even be as old as 180 million years! [1] 

2. The Great Barrier Reef is bigger than Victoria and Tasmania Combined!

The Great Barrier Reef system is the largest coral reef system in the whole world. It can total up to 70 million football fields put together.

When put together, the Island nations of Victoria and Tasmania, located in Australia, still don’t add up to the total area of the Great Barrier Reef. The Great Barrier Reef covers a total area of 348,700 km² and is comprised of 2,900 individual reefs and 900 islands. [2]

3. The Great Barrier Reef makes up 10% of the World’s Total Corals

If you’re looking for a place to find coral, The Great Barrier Reef is the place to go! It is the most extensive system of reef-building corals on Earth and, naturally, is the largest collection of corals found in the whole world. Despite being a magnificent collection of corals, the total area covered by the coral reefs is only 7% of the Great Reef Barrier’s size.

The Belize Barrier Reef, located on the coast of Belize, is the world’s 2nd largest coral reef system. It contains 70 hard coral species and 36 soft coral species. [3]

4. The Great Barrier Reef Contains More Than 9,000 Marine Animals and Mammal Species

The Great Barrier Reef holds extremely diverse animal populations and some unique ecosystems not commonly found in the rest of the world. It contains about 4,000 species of coral reefs itself. Other than that, there are more than 1625 species of fish, including 30 different types of whales and dolphins and 133 types of rays and sharks. [4]

5. It Has Some of the Best Dive Sites in the World

The Great Barrier Reef has relatively calm waters and is also not as deep as other sites, making it a famous spot for inexperienced divers as well.

The Challenger Bay in the Ribbon Reefs has many surgeonfish and other schooling fish species, making diving an unforgettable experience. It also offers stellar night diving and contains breathtaking views of underwater nightlife. [5] 

6. Coral Spawning is a Natural Phenomenon when All Coral Reefs reproduce at the Same Time

Millions of corals release eggs and sperm bundles in the water during coral spawning to reproduce simultaneously. Releasing eggs and sperms in bundles increases the chances of sperm finding and fertilizing an egg. After being fertilized, the eggs rise to the surface and settle on the ocean floor with the rest of the coral population.

Coral spawning usually occurs in November and December. Interestingly, all species of corals spawn at different times, eliminating the chance of cross-breeding. [6] 

7. The Great Barrier Reef Can be seen from Space

Coral Polyps are considered to be related to anemones and jellyfish. They can survive individually, but it is called a Coral Reef when they live in large colonies. They are classified as soft-bodied, invertebrate animals, which makes them living creatures. They are all interconnected by tissue. 

The Great Barrier Reef is considered the world’s largest living creature, as it is comprised of 3000 different coral reefs. Hence, it can also be seen from space. [7] 

8. Thousands of Different Reefs and Islands Comprise the Great Barrier Reef

Although famous for its huge coral reef system, the Great Barrier Reef contains much more than that. It is made up of corals, islands and cays, and seagrass. This system stretches for more than 1,600 miles.

It was formed about 6000 to 8000 years ago during the time of the last ice age. It was formed when coral began to emerge along a mountain range called the Great Dividing Range. The mountains then submerged completely underwater, leaving the islands and reefs we see today. [8] 

9. Around 600 Types of Different Corals Can Be Found In the Great Barrier Reef

The Great Barrier Reef contains hard and soft corals of different shapes, colors, and sizes. 

Hard corals are made up of strong calcium carbonate skeletons, giving them their hard exterior. This skeleton is missing in soft corals, which instead have jelly-like mesoglea structures that hold them together.

Millions of coral polyps living in colonies make up the hard polyps, and their common types include the brain coral and staghorn coral. [9] 

10. The Great Reef Barrier Contains About 10% of the World’s Total Fish Species

The Great Barrier Reef is a spectacle of diversity as it contains 1,500 different species of fish – both small schooling fish and large fish like sharks, whales, and dolphins. About 30 species of whales and dolphins are found. Some of the major fish families found include Angelfish, Butterflyfish, and Cardinalfish.

Moreover, the entirety of the Great Reef Barrier isn’t yet discovered, which means many species might not even be discovered yet! [10] 

11. The Great Barrier Reef was Formed about 20,000 Years Ago

The Great Reef Barrier formed about 6,000 to 20,000 years ago, although the exact date remains unknown.

After the last ice age, sea levels rose rapidly, flooding the coastal plains of Queensland. The flooded hills of the plain then provided the perfect shallow regions of coral growth, forming the Great Reef Barrier. [11]

12. The Great Barrier Reef Generates $6.4 Billion Every Year

Australia profits immensely from the Great Barrier Reef, which is also one of the major tourist spots in the region. It is considered to have a total asset value of 56 billion USD. It contributes 6.4 billion USD to the Australian economy as well as generates more than 64,000 jobs. [12] 

13. About 2 Million People Visit the Great Barrier Reef Every Year

Undoubtedly, the Great Barrier Reef is a sight to behold. From exquisite animal, fish, and plant species to the amazing underwater views and the Coral Reef itself- it is easily one of the must-go tourist spots in the world.

Other than for sightseeing, people visit it for ocean rafting, cruising, and scuba diving, to name a few. There’s also a museum of underwater art and many islands and beaches to enjoy and have an unforgettable holiday. [13] 

14. The Great Reef Barrier Holds Some of the World’s Deadliest Animals

The Stone Fish, Box Jellyfish, and the Striped Pyjama Squid are just some of the poisonous animals found there. The Striped Pyjama Squid, for instance, has glands under its skin that produce venomous saliva. It is highly venomous as well as poisonous, causing its predators to die if they try to approach it. 

When the stonefish attacks, it stings its predators with neurotoxins. The venom is so fatal that a person might die within just an hour of being stung. [14] 

15. The Great Barrier Reef is one of the Seven Natural Wonders of The World

The seven natural wonders include naturally existing sites and not man-made ones. Among them are the Northern Lights, Paricutin, Victoria Falls, Harbor of Rio de Janeiro, the Grand Canyon, Mount Everest, and the Great Barrier Reef.

Given its vastness, ecosystem diversity, the fact that it houses some unique marine, plant, and mammal species, and the amazing behaviors of coral reefs themselves, it is no doubt it took up the spot among the 7 natural wonders. [15] 

16. The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Protects the Great Barrier Reef from Damage

Created in 2014 with the help of the Australian government, the park helps protect the Great Barrier Reef and the species that live in it. The Australian government started this $1 billion reef protection package to strengthen and manage this ecosystem.

Some of the endangered species it protects include Seahorses, Sea dragons, Marine turtles, Seals, and Dolphins. They also monitor reefs’ health and conditions and issue regular reports. [16] 

17. Global Warming and Climate Change Are Threatening the Great Barrier Reef

According to reports, Earth’s average temperature has increased by 1.0°C compared to pre-industrial times. This increase in temperature has harmful effects on the animals and marine population of the Great Barrier Reef. 

Climate change also causes storms and cyclones, ocean currents, and floods. It also contributes to an increase in ocean acidity levels and contributes to a rise in sea levels, damaging the marine ecosystems. [17]

18. The Great Barrier Reef Has Gone Through Nine Coral Bleaching Events

Coral bleaching is when coral reefs turn white in response to environmental stress such as changes in temperature, water nutrient levels, etc. It occurs as corals get rid of the algae living in their tissues.

The 9 Coral Bleaching events occurred in 1980, 1982, 1992, 1994, 1998, 2002, 2006, 2016, and 2017. Coral Beaching messes up the ecosystem causing many other species to suffer too. If such events continue to occur, many coral species might even go extinct. [18]

19. Shipwrecks in the Great Reef Barrier Are More Common Than You Think

There have been around 1,600 shipwrecks on the Great Barrier Reefs. HMS Pandora in 1791, SS Gothenburg in 1875, Foam in 1893, and the SS Yongala shipwreck in 1911 are some of the famous shipwrecks in history that occurred in this region.

Other than the tragic occurrence of a shipwreck, these continued calamities put the ecosystem and lives of many plants and animals in danger at the Great Reef Barrier. [19] 

20. The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are the traditional owners of the Great Barrier Reef

When the Barrier Reef was being formed some 8,000 years ago, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people still lived there. Presently, there are about 70 Aboriginal Traditional Owner groups in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. [20] 

Conclusion

The Great Barrier Reef is the world’s largest coral reef and one of the most interesting. It consists of thousands of individual reefs and hundreds of smaller islands that stretch for over 2,300 km (1,429 mi). Much of the reef is too far away to be seen in its entirety at once, which is a good thing since it is estimated to contain more than 600 different types of coral.

References

  1. https://www.experienceoz.com.au/en/daintree-rainforest-facts
  2. https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/gbrlargeststructure.html
  3. https://www.gbrmpa.gov.au/the-reef/reef-facts
  4. https://www.gbrmpa.gov.au/the-reef/animals
  5. https://www.sportdiver.com/article/news/7-must-dive-spots-australias-great-barrier-reef
  6. https://www.barrierreef.org/news/explainers/what-is-coral-spawning-great-barrier-reef
  7. https://www.esa.int/Applications/Observing_the_Earth/Earth_from_Space_World_s_largest_living_structure
  8. https://sailing-whitsundays.com/article/how-the-great-barrier-reef-was-formed 
  9. https://www.gbrmpa.gov.au/the-reef/corals
  10. https://greatbarrierreef.com.au/fish/
  11. https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/earth-and-planetary-sciences/barrier-reef
  12. https://www2.deloitte.com/content/dam/Deloitte/au/Documents/Economics/deloitte-au-economics-great-barrier-reef-230617.pdf
  13. https://www.livescience.com/6290-great-barrier-reef.html 
  14. https://www.scuba.com/blog/explore-the-blue/top-5-of-the-ocean%E2%80%99s-most-poisonous-creatures/
  15. https://www.ysi.com/ysi-blog/water-blogged-blog/2017/09/the-great-barrier-reef-seventh-wonder-of-the-world-and-an-endangered-species.
  16. https://www.gbrmpa.gov.au/
  17. https://www.gbrmpa.gov.au/our-work/threats-to-the-reef/climate-change.
  18. https://www.aims.gov.au/docs/research/climate-change/coral-bleaching/bleaching-events.html
  19. https://www.australiangeographic.com.au/topics/history-culture/2022/02/4-infamous-shipwrecks-found-on-the-great-barrier-reef/
  20. https://www.gbrmpa.gov.au/our-partners/traditional-owners/traditional-owners-of-the-great-barrier-reef