Coral and the Great Barrier Reef

Coral and the Great Barrier Reef

Written by: Cameron Ward

Published: 03/18/2015

Reading time: 3 mins

One of the most incredible features of any reef found around the world is coral.

These living organisms are an important part of a marine ecosystem. They are divided into two classes, hard and soft coral. The Great Barrier Reef in Queensland is the world’s largest coral reef. All up there are over 2,900 different reefs and 900 islands!

The way coral is made is an interesting operation. Big reef structures like those found in the Great Barrier Reef are formed when the stony coral organism creates a calcium carbonate skeleton. Thus it creates a base layer for itself. From there, layers and layers are formed, establishing the corals size.

Corals in the ecosystem

Millions of stony coral can grow on top of each other, even after certain parts have died. These colonies can weigh several tons. Coral grows at an incredibly slow rate. Outside factors such as light, water depth and temperature all impact growing speeds. The majority of coral only grows two centimetres per year. This has become a problem in the Great Barrier Reef as many parts of the reef system are in danger. Boats, tourists, and other visitors all pose a risk to the coral. Many do not understand the importance of coral in that particular ecosystem.

While tourists may not understand their impact, the coral in the Great Barrier Reef is just one of the reasons m people travel out to Queensland. There are over 600 different types of coral in the reef, creating a spectacular underwater experience. You won’t need a camera to remember this! Coral feed off light just like other plants in other ecosystems, but also eat plankton, and other organisms found in the water.

Plant or coral?

Soft corals are sometimes mistaken for plants, as they sway with the movement of water. They are also the most colourful of coral, and contain eight different tentacles that collect food and light. Many fish and other creatures make their home in between the soft coral’s tentacles, as they provide a safe place away from marine predators by camouflaging their residents with their variety of colours. Since many mistake the coral for plants, they give off a poisonous chemical when fish and other crustaceans try to eat them as a defence mechanism. Coral get their vibrant colours from the release of proteins, while other corals who colours are brown, gain their hue from algae that live within them.

Cameron Ward
Cameron Ward
Managing Director at Sightseeing Tours Australia

Cameron Ward turned his travel passion into a thriving Australian tourism business. Before he co-founded his own business, Sightseeing Tours Australia, he was enjoying being a Melbourne tour guide. Even now, Cameron delights in helping visitors from all around the world get the most out of their incredible Australian trip. You’ll see Cameron leading tours or writing about his favourite Australian places where he shares his local insights.