The Great Coral Reef, situated in the Coral Sea, off the coast of Queensland, Australia, is the most massive living structure on the planet extending for over 2300 kilometres.
It is believed to provide habitat to nearly 9000 marine life species found in Queensland. Each of the organisms contributes their bit to the stable and healthy coral reef ecosystem. The fact that it is visible even from the space speaks volumes of its vastness and magnificence. There are several ocean tours available for those who wish to travel to The Great Coral Reef from Brisbane or Gold Coast.
Composed of 2500 individual reefs and 900 islands, the reef extends from the Northern tip of Queensland to the south of Gladstone. The Great Barrier Reef is home to countless corals and other marine life and is a beautiful sight to behold for any human being. You must visit it to see this natural phenomenon for yousrelf and enjoy the diverse marine animals here.
The Biodiversity of the Coral reef Ecosystem:
Ecosystem principally refers to the numerous species interacting with each other and the physical environment.
To understand why it is important to manage and protect the Great Barrier Reef, let’s begin by knowing the two ways of describing it – species diversity and functional diversity.
Species diversity refers to the number and variety of biological species inhabiting it. Home to more than 9000 marine life species, excluding microorganisms, planktons and fungi, the Great Barrier Reef ecosystem has existed for around 6000 to 9000 years. However, many of the creatures it shelters have even lived for millions of years. That is why it is important to keep the ecosystem intact to protect these creatures for a long time.
Employing a different perspective, the biodiversity of the Great Coral Reef among the coastal marine habitats can be explained by the role played by each organism and animal. Each species thriving on the reef has its function to perform to support and balance the ecosystem which explains its fragility and vulnerability.
40% of the multiple roles played by fish in the ecosystem are by a single species. Much alarmingly, a threat to this specialist variety of fish, one of whose essential jobs is to clear off the plankton, would pose a threat to the resilience and robustness of the otherwise stable biological arrangement.
Quick facts about the ecosystem:
Sea stars, sea cucumbers, and sea urchins inhabiting the reef are capable of devastating the reefs leaving behind only the calcium carbonate skeletons. Crown of thorns sea star may eat up the reef rendering it dead and eliminating the variety of game fish along with the deep-sea fish populations. This would inevitably break the much-crucial food chain and disrupt the ecosystem of the Great Barrier Reef.
Reefs are home to a variety of molluscs, marine snails, squids, clams, scallops and nudibranchs, all of which live on or near the reef. About giant clams, they are known to reach a length of up to 4 feet (1.2 metres). The predator snails are carnivorous and capable of drilling holes into these shelled animals.
Some quintessential residents of the reef ecosystem like solitary and schooling fish, act as both predators and prey. Other reef inhabitants thrive on the nutrients provided by the leftover food scraps and wastes and keep growing and surviving in this ecosystem.
Several species of porous sponges dwell on the reefs and can be seen on an ocean tour in Australia. Appearing in a spectrum of shapes and colours, sponges provide a home to fish, shrimps, crabs, and other tiny marine animals on the reef.
Reef anemones, such as Indo- Pacific ones, are known to bear the so-called symbiotic association with clownfish and anemone fish. While anemone’s tentacles are supposed to provide shelter for these fish and their eggs, anemone fish guard the anemone against predators such as butterflyfishes.
The diverse marine life is subject to risks with the spiking commercial activities. Hence, it’s imperative to keep human interference to the minimum and conserve this precious asset forever. We must work together to preserve this beautiful diversity of marine life to maintain the Great Barrier Reef and its ecosystem.