Facts about the Great Barrier Reef
As the largest living structure on the planet, the Great Barrier Reef is incredibly rich and diverse. Stretching 2,300 kilometres, this natural icon is so large it can even be seen from outer space.
While it’s known mostly for its large maze of colourful reefs, its intricate architecture also provides a home for a huge number of plants and animals. Some of these, such as turtles and crocodiles, have been around since prehistoric times and have changed little over the millennia. The breathtaking array of marine creatures includes 600 types of soft and hard corals, more than 100 species of jellyfish, 3,000 varieties of molluscs, 500 species of worms, 1,625 types of fish, 133 varieties of sharks and rays, and more than 30 species of whales and dolphins.
The Great Barrier Reef is also unique as it extends over 14 degrees of latitude, from shallow estuarine areas to deep oceanic waters. Within this vast expanse are a unique range of ecological communities, habitats and species – all of which make the Reef one of the most complex natural ecosystems in the world.
The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park:
- covers 344,400km2 in area
- includes the world’s largest coral reef ecosystem
- includes some 3,000 coral reefs, 600 continental islands, 300 coral cays and about 150 inshore mangrove islands
- extends south from the northern tip of Queensland in north-eastern Australia to just north of Bundaberg
- is between 60 and 250 kilometres in width
- has an average depth of 35 metres in its inshore waters, while on outer reefs, continental slopes extend down to depths of more than 2,000 metres
- was created in 1975 through the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Act
- extends into the airspace above and into the earth beneath the seabed.