The Great Barrier Reef coral formation is the largest in the world, located off the Pacific coast of Queensland, Australia. It is home to a spectacular array of marine life and offers awesome diving opportunities.
The Great Barrier Reef coral can be seen from outer space and is the world’s biggest single structure made by living organisms. This reef structure is composed of and built by billions of tiny organisms, known as coral polyps. It supports a wide diversity of life and was selected as a World Heritage Site in 1981.
A large part of the reef is protected by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, which helps to limit the impact of human use, such as fishing and tourism. The Great Barrier Reef has long been known to and used by the Aboriginal Australian and Torres Strait Islander peoples, and is an important part of local groups’ cultures and spirituality. The reef is a very popular destination for tourists.
History of Great Barrier Reef Coral
The Great Barrier Reef’s development history is complex; after Queensland drifted into tropical waters, it was largely influenced by reef growth and decline as sea level changed. The land that formed the substrate of the current Great Barrier Reef was a coastal plain formed from the eroded sediments of the Great Dividing Range with some larger hills.
From 20,000 years ago until 6,000 years ago, sea level rose steadily around the world. As it rose, the corals could then grow higher on the newly submerged maritime margins of the hills of the coastal plain. As the sea level rose further still, most of the continental islands were submerged. The corals could then overgrow the submerged hills, to form the present cays and reefs.
The Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area has been divided into 70 bioregions, of which 30 are reef bioregions. In the northern part of the Great Barrier Reef, ribbon reefs and deltaic reefs have formed; these structures are not found in the rest of the reef system.