A reef is a ridge-like rock that forms below water due to the accumulation limestone beneath the water surface of an ocean or sea. Reefs form as a result of organisms containing calcite. Accumulation of the skeletons of these calcite organisms, over thousands of years, results in the formation of the coral reefs. The largest coral reef in the world is known as the Great Barrier Reef. The reef lies within the Coral Sea which is to the north eastern side of Australia. The Great Barrier Reef is about 2600 kilometers long. It comprises of 2900 individual reefs and 900 islands (Bowen & Bowen, 2002).
Apart from being the largest coral reef in the world, the reef has a variety of features that make its existence very important to both humans and the organisms living within it. One of the remarkable features about the Great Barrier Reef is that it acts as a habitat for around thirty species of whales. Dolphins and porpoises also live within the coral reef. The reef also acts as a breeding ground for six species of turtles. Around 215 species of birds also visit the reef and the islands within it to either nest or roost. Seventeen species of sea snakes also live within the reef. The reef also acts as a habitat for 1500 fish species. 330 species of ascidians also lives within the reef (Hopley, Smithers, & Parnell, 2207).
The Great Barrier Reef is important to the people of Australia in many ways. One of them is that the reef acts as a source of fish and other aquatic life which are eaten as food by a large population of people in Australia. The reef is also important to the Australian economy in that it generates an income of 5.8 Billion to the Australian economy. Around 63000 of people living in Australia engage in an occupation related to the Great Barrier Reef. Some of the contents of the reef are also used in scientific studies to advance already existing technology or the creation of medicine. The reef is listed as one of the seven natural wonders of the world (Woodford, 2011).
The analysis of the importance of the Great Barrier Reef to both humans and the organisms living within it stresses the fact that the reef should be conserved and protected. However, the reef faces a number of numerous dangers that threaten to destroy it and kill the organisms living within it. One of the biggest threats to the existence of the reef is a species of starfish that has a crown of thorns. This starfish eats coral polyps accumulating to build up the reef. Another threat to the reef is the negative effects of global warming. The increased temperature levels, damage coral reefs. Tourism also forms a major threat to the reef. This is because tourism activities such as the anchoring of boats, reef walking and pollution damages weak coral reefs (Lawrence & Kenchington, 2002).
Over fishing has also been a major threat to the survival of the coral reef. Both commercial and recreational fishing has often led to the capture of rare and important species of fish such as the Giant Triton. This leads to the disruption of both marine food chains the order in which life occurs within the reef. The vessels used for fishing also greatly pollute the reef’s waters. Oil spills within the reef also act as a source of damage to the coral reefs and kill the living organisms within the reef. Shipping accidents are another cause of threat to the survival of the Great Barrier Reef. This is because sinking ships destroy already developing corals. Boats using the reef as water way also throw waste and other foreign objects into the reef which destroy the reef and kill the organisms that greatly contribute to its development.
It has, therefore, become paramount to put in measures that will help to conserve and maintain the existence of the Great Barrier Reef. The first conservative measure that could be taken to conserve this important natural resource is to formulate regulations that will govern the both commercial and recreational fishing. Regulations concerning mining and tourism also have to be formulated and implemented. This action will give proper grounds for the government to take appropriate legal action for anyone who violates the set law concerning fishing within the reef. Examples of the regulations that can be set include the enforcement of a limitation on the size of fish captured. This will ensure that fishermen don’t capture very small sizes of fish. This measure will ensure that the small fish mature and continue to breed (Hutchings, Kingsford, & Guldberg, 2008).
Another measure that can be put in place the preparation of frequent Environmental Impact Statements (EIS) on the areas in which mining and tourism take place within the reef. The preparation of these assessments will act as a means of monitoring and ensuring that pollution levels within the reef do not reach levels that may harm the coral and aquatic life within the reef.
Extensive scientific research should also be done to potential mining and tourist sites in order to increase the level of knowledge on the problems that cause damage and destruction to the reef. This will help generate solutions that will curb against the causes of destruction of the Great Barrier Reef (Shea, 2007).
The government management authorities, scientists and industries that use the reef or the aquatic life within it in one way or another, should come together and work closely. These three entities should discuss and come up with ways that will minimize the negative effects caused by the exploitation of the reef’s resources.
Community members living around the Great Barrier Reef should also be educated about the aquatic life and the reef ecosystem. If people are made to understand the importance of the reef existence and how to exploit its resources appropriately without destroying it, the reef will continue to exist and help lots of generations to come.