Great Barrier Reef: One of the Seven Wonders of Nature?

Written by on July 28, 2009 in Marine Life
Great Barrier Reef, satellite image courtesy of NASA

Great Barrier Reef, satellite image courtesy of NASA

The Great Barrier Reef is among the finalists for the title of “New 7 Wonders of Nature”  according to an announcement last week in Zurich.

These wonders of nature are selected in four phases, the first started in 2007.  The second phase started out with 77 nominees and now the Great Barrier Reef is among the 28 finalists in the third and last phase, which will conclude in 2011 with a global popular vote that will determine the new seven wonders.  The process is being conducted by the New 7 Wonders Foundation.

The GBR is the world’s largest coral reef system.  It is located in the Coral Sea, off the coast of Queensland in northeast Australia and is made up of a chain of more than 2,900 individual reefs and nearly 1,000 islands, and is about 2,300 kilometres long, a huge living entity filled with biodiversity.  It is the world’s biggest single structure made by living organisms; over 400 species of corals are found on the reef.

Some 30 species of whales, dolphins and porpoises, 6 species of sea turtle, 125 species of shark, about 5000 species of mollusc, 49 species of pipefish, 9 species of seahorse, 17 species of sea snake, more than 1500 species of fish, 330 species of ascidians, 500 species of marine algae and 400 species of corals are all found in this rich ecosystem.

“The Reef has a natural and rightful place among the wonders of the world,” said the CEO of the Australian Institute of Marine Science, Dr. Ian Poiner in a press release issued last week.  “It is of immense cultural and economic importance to Australia, and contributes some $5.8 billion each year to Australia’s economy in terms of tourism, agriculture, minerals, fishing and shipping.

“It is a magnet for marine scientists who are drawn to its research challenges and are inspired by its majesty,” Dr Poiner said.  “From such inspiration have come many new insights into how coral reef ecosystems operate.”

Great Barrier Reef - Credit: ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies/Marine Photobank

Great Barrier Reef - Credit: ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies/Marine Photobank

While in more recent years AIMS has extended its research activities throughout all northern Australian waters, across the Top End and down to Ningaloo off the Western Australian coast, it maintains a strong and growing presence in the GBR.

AIMS operates the Long-term Monitoring Program to regularly check on the health of the reef, providing information on population trends in key groups of organisms, particularly crown-of-thorns starfish, corals and reef fishes, over the length and breadth of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area.

Acropora, Carter's Reef at Great Barrier Reef - NOAA's Coral Kingdom Collection, Photographer: Dr. Robert Ricker

Acropora, Carter's Reef at Great Barrier Reef - NOAA's Coral Kingdom Collection, Photographer: Dr. Robert Ricker

The Institute is in the process of rolling out the high-tech Great Barrier Reef Ocean Observing System (GBROOS) which will provide a “digital skin” for the Reef, making possible more accurate forecasting and improved understanding of the processes sustaining the Reef’s biodiversity.

“To us, the naming of the Great Barrier Reef as a 7 Wonders finalist makes perfect sense,” Dr Poiner said.  “We know how important it is, how vital it is to Australia’s economy, environment and culture and how vulnerable it is to change.

“It is also, without any doubt, one of the most beautiful places on Earth,” Dr Poiner said.

 

Copyright ©  2009 by Marine Science Today, a publication of OceanLines LLC

About the Author

About the Author: Celia is Director of Business Operations for OceanLines LLC and is a frequent contributor to both OceanLines and Marine Science Today. She is a certified diver and her favorite topic is marine biology, especially stories about whales. .

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