The Wonderful Biodiversity of The Great Barrier Reef
Our goal is to raise awareness for coral reefs and the threats they face. We believe that it is so important right now to come together and work alongside each other with one common goal in mind; saving the planet and the amazing animals that inhabit it.
In order to raise awareness of coral reefs, we must discuss the importance of them. To fully understand the need to save coral reefs, we have to understand that these ecosystems contain an incredible amount of diverse life. In this article, we will take a look at the wonderful biodiversity of the Great Barrier Reef. In looking at the animals that rely on these coral reefs, we can fully understand the importance of saving them.
The Great Barrier Reef
According to the National History Museum, the Great Barrier Reef contains more than 400 coral species, 4,000 mollusc species, and around 1,500 fish species. Because of the biodiversity, the marine life works together and the ecosystem is stable and healthy. All the creatures rely on each other to thrive and use the coral reef as their home.
According to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, six of the seven species of sea turtles live in the Great Barrier Reef. These are amazing creatures and have not really changed for thousands of years, evolving at the same time as dinosaurs. Marine turtles nest on the islands of the Great Barrier Reef, placing their eggs in the sand. They breed during the warmer months of the year.
Sadly, The International Union for Conservation of Nature lists two of these turtles as critically vulnerable, and one endangered. All of the turtles are decreasing in numbers because their home is getting destroyed.
There are projects and laws that are trying to save the turtles, however. Raine Island exists in the Northern area of the Great Barrier Reef and is a vegetated coral cay. It is the home of one of the biggest Green Turtle nesting populations and because of this, conservationists are working hard to protect the turtles. According to the Queensland Governments’ website, The Raine Island Recovery Project protects and restores the area. The island is not open to the public, and researchers and conservationists help the nesting turtles. They rescue stranded turtles, monitor the species, re-profile the beach, and research the resilience of the species.
Their efforts are working! In June 2020 the Great Barrier Reef Foundation recorded the largest Green Turtle gathering ever witnessed! They posted the video to Facebook, and it’s a beautiful sight to see.
The dugong is an amazing animal that is mostly found in and around the Great Barrier Reef and the other waters of Australia. According to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Authority, these mammals can grow up to three metres long and can weigh over 400kg! Despite their size, these animals are extremely peaceful. They are also known as the sea cow because they spend their days munching on the seagrass.
According to the Great Barrier Reef Foundation, dugongs are intelligent animals and can remember specific feeding areas. They can return to these places to feed after traveling to other waters. They are slow movers and can live up to seventy years. Despite being pretty solitary, they are known to sing and talk to one another, echoing their noises through the water.
These graceful creatures are amazing and rely on the Great Barrier Reef for their home. However, they are a vulnerable species and face threats to their survival. According to the World Wildlife Foundation, the seagrass that dugong feed on is degrading because of water pollution. They will also become tangled in fishing nets, dying before they are found or able to escape.
The Humphead Wrasse
The Humphead Wrasse is the largest species of wrasse and is found in coral reefs in the Indo-Pacific regions. According to the World Wildlife Foundation, the Humphead Wrasse grows over six feet in length and some can live up to thirty years. They are a beautiful species of fish and can appear in shades of greens and blues. They are carnivores and feed off invertebrates and smaller fish. Because they eat smaller creatures that might damage coral reefs, they are important to the health and stability of the ecosystem.
Sadly, this amazing fish is listed as endangered according to The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. This is because of overfishing. According to National Geographic, these fish are seen as a luxury food in Hong Kong and the fishing for Humphead Wrasse has increased dramatically over the years. In a recent population study of the species in the wild, the results were worrying. Sighting this wonderful fish is becoming rarer and rarer.
The Giant Triton
The Giant Triton is a huge species of sea snail that can grow up to two feet. According to Oceana, these snails are active predators that chase their prey. They are found all over the Indo-Pacific regions, and the Red Sea. They live on coral reefs and play a big part in the ecosystem of the reefs.
According to the Great Barrier Reef Foundation, the Giant Triton eat the venomous Crown-of-Thorns Starfish. This starfish is a major threat to corals and therefore the coral reefs need this snail to keep the population of this startfish in check! Without the Giant Triton, the Crown-of-Thorns starfish may overrun the Great Barrier Reef and destroy the ecosystem.
Unfortunately, the Giant Triton is commercially harvested. Their shells are often used for decoration or as tourist gifts. Because of their importance, the harvesting of this species is a great concern for conservationists.
But, there is still hope for these amazing creatures. According to phys.org, the Australian government has announced that they will fund breeding programs of Giant Tritons in the hope that they can be used to manage outbreaks of crown-of-thorn starfish.
The Wonders of Nature Need Protecting
The species mentioned in this article are only a tiny proportion of the biodiversity that is found in the Great Barrier Reef. There are so many more amazing creatures that make up the ecosystem of the coral reefs, and they all are important for the health of the region.
Because every species matters, we need to protect them. It is great to hear that there are some programs in place to help these species, however, there is still so much more work to be done. Together, we can raise awareness and discuss the issues that coral reefs are facing, and what we can do in order to protect them!