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Australia Great Barrier Reef The Great Barrier Reef is a chain of coral reefs in the Coral Sea off the northeastern coast of Australia The Barrier reef is one of the biggest in the world it measures in 2011 km in length and 72 km across at its widest point The Great Barrier Reef is home to a remarkable number of organisms The coral itself is made up of the skeletons of tiny flowerlike water animals called polyps held together by a limestone substance produced by a type of algae The corals which make up the various reefs and cays and which are the base for this variety of sea and animal life consist of individual coral polyps tiny living creatures which join together to form colonies Each polyp is a tiny jelly-like blob crowned by tentacles and looks not unlike an anemone but much smaller Each polyp lives inside a shell of aragonite a type of calcium carbonate which is the hard shell we recognize as coral The polyps join together to create forests of colored coral in interesting fan antler and brain and plate shapes The ideal environment for coral is shallow warm water where there is a lot of water movement plenty of light where the water is salty and low in nutrients Reefs are sensitive to climate change to changes in patterns of water movement and to physical damage so problems like global warming El Nio the building of moorings or breakwaters any additional nutrients running off land from human habitation may well have a negative effect on the reef system and thus on the sea and land animals which depend upon it for survival The coral has over the years brought many ships to grief one of the most famous wrecks is that of the HMS Pandora More than 2 million people visit the reef each year generating more than AU1 billion in tourism dollars
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