29 August, 2007

The Great Barrier Reef

The Great Barrier Reef
How long can one of the world's most striking, most remarkable, most wonderful and most unique natural wonders survive the destructive carelessness and neglect of Man? Australia's Great Barrier Reef is rapidly dwindling in size and may completely disappear. Several factors are conspiring to degrade the reef: tropical cyclones, attacks from the coral predator the crown-of-thorns starfish, and rising water temperatures. Incredibly, all these destructive forces are apparently, mainly, caused by human activity and impact.

The cyclones and the rising water temperatures affecting the Great Barrier Reef and most other parts of the world, are related to man-caused global warming. More intensive farming along the coast and inland, adjacent to the Reef; and urban runoff, are feeding the predatory Crown of Thorns Starfish, which is the Reef's most aggressive destructive force. Very few living creatures can reproduce so many as this starfish: each female can produce up to 60 million eggs during a single spawning season. What makes these starfish to breed faster and even more, is the run-off of fertilizers from the shore into the sea, and coastal development. These produce food and nutrients which the starfish feeds on, allowing them to grow faster and breed even many more at a much faster rate.

These giant predators, which have up to 21 arms covered in poisonous spikes, can each consume up to 107 sq ft of living coral per year and will eat virtually any type that lives on the reef. Although slow moving, the starfish can devour vast amounts of coral by descending on it and pushing their stomach out through their mouth, allowing them to digest an area equal to their own 17 inch diameter in one swoop. Other major factors affecting the reef are cyclone damage, which caused around half of all coral death, and bleaching due to rising sea temperatures, which was responsible for 10 per cent. Although storms were found to have the biggest overall impact, Crown of Thorns outbreaks are the most easily preventable threat, experts say. At its current rate of decline the Great Barrier Reef could lose another half of its remaining coral in a decade, but without starfish outbreaks coral cover would begin to slowly increase.

How to destroy Crown-of-Thorns Starfish.

Facts on The Great Barrier Reef:

  • Location: off the coast of Queensland, north-east Australia.
  • Place: Great Barrier Reef
  • Threats: climate change, crown-of-thorns starfish which preys on coral polyps, pollution, fishing and shipping.
  • The Reef has the world’s most sophisticated marine management park.
  • THE GREAT BARRIER REEF is one of the planet’s most famous natural wonders, stretching across more than 1,600 miles (2,575 kilometers) and covers covers an area of 133,000 square miles (344,400 square km. It is comprised of more than 2900 separate reefs.It is not only the largest natural feature on earth, but it is too, one of the world's greatest natural treasures and wonders.
  • The Great Barrier Reef can be seen from outer space.
  • Thirty species of whales, dolphins, and porpoises have been recorded in the Great Barrier Reef; Six species of sea turtles come to the reef to breed. Over 200 species of birds (including 22 species of seabirds and 32 species of shorebirds) visit the reef or nest or roost on the islands. Seventeen species of sea snake live on the Great Barrier Reef.
  • More facts on the amazing Great Barrier Reef here and here.

+ Watch how the Crown-of-Thorns Starfish is destroying the Great Barrier Reef on YouTube.

+ More on the Great Barrier Reef: gbrmpa.gov, great-barrier-reef.com, National Geographic, cultureandrecreation.gov.au, Barrier Reef Australia, Google Books, Google Video, Google Scholar

+ Google Map of the Great Barrier Reef

+ Images: Google

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