the

Great Barrier Reef | Exploring Oceans

from space the east coast of Australia

appears to be in the embrace of a giant

opal the largest living structure on

earth the Great Barrier Reef is a lacy

living wall spanning more than 2,000

kilometres of islands and submerged

reefs between the Queensland coast and

the western edge of the Pacific Ocean

diving in the opal seems to splinter

into millions of pieces whirlpools of

small metallic bluefish Barracuda

gliding like silver submarines

occasionally alone predatory shark

the Great Barrier Reef is like an

underwater city whose buildings are

alive with millions of small creatures

whose lives are intimately and

intricately connected

it is as diverse as a rainforest a

mosaic of more than 70 types of habitats

hosting thousands of species of marine

life as many as a hundred different

kinds of Carl may occupy a single acre

of ocean

molecule by molecule Carl animals

gradually extract calcium carbonate from

the surrounding water to form my newts

tawny cups around each animal soft crown

of tentacles some corals live in

solitary splendor but most are built

with hundreds sometimes thousands of

individual animals linked together to

form a single coral mound plate or

cluster of branches some are like little

trees and shrubs they provide food and

shelter for thousands of other forms of

life

Carl's get the credit for most of the

reef structure but much of the

construction is done by fast-growing

encrusting red algae they act like pink

glue cementing fragments of shale sand

and coral with sheets of calcium

carbonate

the reef is home to more than 4,000

kinds of mollusks from tiny sea slugs

neuter banks to giant clams

these intervals travel thousands of

miles in the open sea to reach the sandy

beaches of some of the Barrier Reef's

Islands and there to lay their eggs

hatchlings hit straight for the scene

they will travel thousands of miles over

the years and eventually return to lay

her own eggs established as a national

park in 1975 the Great Barrier Reef was

designated as a World Heritage Site

six years later today about 33% of it is

fully protected from fishing and other

extractive activities and efforts are

underway to deal with pollution

overfishing and the consequences of

climate change the Great Barrier Reef

appears to be about 20,000 years old but

geologists using deep coring techniques

found evidence of ancient carl's there

are half a million years old

CAIR future of Australia's living

treasure the Great Barrier Reef will be

at least as enduring as its magnificent

past

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