7 Great Barrier Reef Facts: Age, Size, Threats, and More

Most people have heard about the Great Barrier Reef. It’s well known as one of the most beautiful natural wonders of the world. However, people don’t give nearly enough attention to the region’s past and future. Historical considerations demonstrate the region’s fragility. In the following article we’ll look at Great Barrier Reef facts which touch on these points. We’ll begin with an overview of its age, size and general threats. And from there we’ll look at additional factors influencing it.

Great Barrier Reef

1. Age

The Great Barrier Reef is incredibly old in human terms. It’s even ancient in terms of life in general. However, one has to look at things in slightly different terms when considering something so ancient. Reefs themselves have been around for a very long time.

It’s difficult to put an exact number on it. But one can point to a general age of around 500 million years for reefs. The Great Barrier Reef itself formed around 500,000 years ago. But this was still a fairly early version of what we know today. To get a real age for the reef, one needs to look at the entire ecosystem. And by those numbers, it’s about 8,000 years old.

2. Size

Considering Great Barrier Reef facts can be difficult due to ambiguity. The reef isn’t a singular entity. But instead it’s more an environment. This can make exact size estimates rather difficult.

In general though, there’s a fairly well accepted consensus for size estimates. The reef system is usually defined as a chain of around 2,900 individual reefs. And along with that there’s around 900 islands within that chain. This comes out to an area of around 1,400 miles.

One notable point is that the reef is large enough to see from space. And in fact, it’s the single largest single structure made up by living organisms. The system is so large that there’s full billions of different life forms within it.

Great Barrier Reef from above

3. General Threats

Sadly, there’s one item that everyone can agree on when talking about Great Barrier Reef facts. And that’s the fact that it’s under considerable strain from a number of different sources. The most significant risk factor comes from climate change.

It can be thought of as a complex ecosystem. And it’s one which depends on a base of very easily disrupted lifeforms. Even fairly small climate change can cause havoc on such a fragile system. And the area has been under significant strain in recent years.

But there’s other significant issues as well. The pH balance for the area has become more acidic. This is part of a larger oceanic trend. But it’s one which cause significant problems for reefs in general. Poor water quality is also a risk. Thought thankfully preservation efforts are keeping it at bay to a larger extent.

4. Early Human History

The earliest exploration of the Great Barrier reef isn’t well documented. This is due to the sheer length of time involved. It’s accepted that the Aboriginal Australians were the first to discover the reef.

And as one sees with these Great Barrier Reef facts, timespans tend to be rather impressive. That first human contact dates back around 400,000 years. The next major encounter with the reefs came from Torres Strait Islanders. This happened around 10,000 years ago.

5. Later Exploration

The reefs only showed up in written history much later. That first record dates back to 1768. It wasn’t actually claimed for the French. But they did launch Louis de Bougainville’s exploratory expedition.

The next encounter came from famous explorer James Cook in 1770. He chanced on it with difficult results. His ship actually received some minor damage from encountering the Reef. Its next significant encounter happened in a similar manner. The HMS Pandora sank after running against it in 1791.

Modern interest in the area didn’t really develop until 1922. This was the point when the Great Barrier Reef Committee began looking into the area’s rich scientific resources.

Coral Outcrop Flynn Reef

6. Marine Regions

The Great Barrier Reef facts have touched on how large it is. But one can easily expand on this fact. The overall definition of the reef usually involves segmenting it into marine regions. At the moment, conservation efforts usually subdivide it into five regions.

Each identified marine reserve can then get extra consideration under Australia’s National Representative System of Marine Protected Areas. A major point of this subdivision involves biodiversity.

The Great Barrier Reef tends to come under discussion as a singular entity. But this very large region consists of some very different environments. Each of the environments operates in conjunction with the rest.

Preserving the reef is much like preserving the health of a human being. One needs to consider all of the biological components to preserve overall health.

7. Protective Efforts

The other items demonstrate just how immense the Great Barrier Reef is. Protecting such a large area is an immense undertaking. But both large and small scale efforts have made a big difference. On the larger side, national protective efforts help minimize damage. And environmental improvements should continue to mitigate damage.

On a smaller scale, there’s a huge amount of things that people can do. These Great Barrier Reef facts showcase that the biggest risks come from large scale global effects. Almost anything which reduces pollution has an impact on the reefs.

Even something as seemingly unconnected as planting a tree can have long term impact. For example, air quality reduces global warming. And this, in turn, helps restore the temperatures which the Great Barrier Reef needs to thrive.

Great Barrier Reef

Wrapping Up

In conclusion, one can see some important threads which go through every item. One of the most important has to do with time. The Great Barrier Reef’s history is awe inspiring. It’s not only ancient in terms of personal history. But also in terms of human history.

And it’s humanity which needs to care for it in the future. Which is why further discussion among readers is so important. People need to decide how to help the reef.

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