Australia's Great Barrier ReefThe Great Barrier Reef is the most extensive structure ever built by living creatures and the only life form on Earth visible from the moon. One of the natural wonders of the world, the World Heritage Great Barrier Reef holds a fascination for overseas visitors and Australians alike. It is the largest coral reef in the world, made up of 2500 separate reefs, it stretches over 2000 km from the northern tip of the continental shelf near Papua New Guinea, to Bundaberg in the south.
The 540 islands of the Great Barrier Reef are of two distinct types, continental and coral cay. With a landmass which can contain nearly five Japans, seven Britains and is half the size of Texas - there certainly is a lot to see!
Its ecosystem supports the greatest concentration of life on this planet with its resident marine life including 1,500 species of fish, 350 different kinds of coral, 4000 species of molluscs and 10,000 species of sponges. It also provides breeding areas for humpback whales, sea turtles dugong and seabirds. Hundreds of species of algae, including seaweeds, also live on the reef as a vital part of the reef system.
In 1975 the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park (GBRMP) was established. In recognition of its universal value, the Great Barrier Reef was inscribed on the World Heritage list in October 1981 and is now a Marine Park managed by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority. GBRMPA's aim is to increase people's understanding of the reef and ensure that it is used in the most enjoyable and least harmful fashion under the auspices of a marine park permit system.
As well as its natural and ecological importance, the Great Barrier Reef is also of cultural and historical significance with human involvement with the reef beginning thousands of years ago and extending through to the first visits to Australian by European explorers in the 17th and 18th centuries, and on to World War II and more recent times.
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