The research report below was written by 7th grader Madeline Gross, a student in my Online Level 1 class. This is considered a Unit 6 paper in the IEW method. Enjoy Madeline’s delightful report on the Great Barrier Reef!
Also, please disregard the incorrect formatting of the Works Cited list. As I have mentioned previously, MLA formatting, which is rather odd, does not seem to be an option in this platform.
Stretching longer than the Great Wall of China, the Great Barrier Reef is the only living thing on planet earth that is remotely visible from space. Because this remarkable statistic is so impressive, the Great Barrier Reef is one of the seven wonders of the natural world. That should be no surprise. About 2 million people visit the Great Barrier Reef each year since it is a tourism hotspot. Tourism is both helpful and harmful to the world’s largest coral reef, which extends south along the eastern coast of Queensland, Australia. Slightly longer than the distance between Boston and Miami, the reef stretches an impressive 1,600 miles long. This massive reef is composed of 3,000 individual reefs, which are geologically formed by tiny sea creatures. Although this reef is one of the healthiest in the world, there are still a number of threats that affect the ecology of this stunning reef.
Forming this impressive natural wonder, tiny living organisms dwell in abundance. Under the surface of the water, the process of reef building begins. Coral polyps, which are tiny creatures, attach themselves to coral rock and other hard surfaces. Interestingly enough, algae, which is called zooxanthellae, is located in the soft tissues of coral. These algae play an important role because they help coral grow and construct limestone skeletons. When corals die, their skeletons cement together to form reefs. This is an amazing process. In fact, there are 400 different species of coral in the reef. Since the Great Barrier Reef is remarkably formed by these talented tiny creatures, it is no surprise this reef is a natural wonder.
Roaming the substantial reef of Australia, 10,000 different species thrive. Since numerous fish, animals, birds, and plants reside in and around the reef, the Great Barrier Reef is known for its beauty and impressive wildlife. Impressively, there are 30 different species of whales, dolphins and porpoises that have been reported in the reef including dugongs, which are a relative to the manatee. Turtles also exist there. Because fish are the primary dwellers of the ocean, an impressive 1,500 different species of fish call the reef their home. Some of these fish include clownfish, red bass, and the red throat emperor. Although the reef is a home to marine life, birds also dwell close to the reef. Near the reef, 215 species of birds nest in trees located on the islands of Australia. Scientists have been actively studying the Great Barrier Reef to learn and observe how these animals behave.
Sadly, there are many threats that harm this massive reef system developed by living organisms. Bleaching is the most common threat to the Great Barrier Reef. Causing the zooxanthellae to die, increased water temperatures occur through the process of global warming. When this tragedy occurs, coral will turn a bright white leading to a decline in reef building. The reef was invaded in 1960 by the crown-of-thorns starfish, which is the most popular creature to feed on coral. Oil pollution is also fatal. In 2010, a coal-carrying ship from China ran ashore on the reef and spilled a 1.86-mile-long strip of shiny, slick oil that killed beloved coral and marine life. Although oil spills are very dreadful, there are even more threats that harm this charming reef. Surprisingly, people can cause massive damage to the reef as well. Fisherman plummet their anchors right into the reef causing the coral to crack and break. In addition, scientists have determined that sweat and suntan lotion that washes off of swimmers can disrupt the chemical balance of the coral. Although this all might sound very pessimistic, there is good news. Thankfully, in 2004 the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park expanded the amount of highly guarded zones by 30 percent. Because this reef is so alluring and fascinating, citizens around the world should help protect and save the Great Barrier Reef from these many dangers.
While many threats challenge this innocent reef, the persistent organisms persevere as gifted artists of this natural beauty. Scientists, who study the reef, continually examine these organisms and how they interact with other species because the more they discover, the more it will benefit the health of the reef. Stretching 134,000 square miles, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park was created in 1975 by the Australian government to help protect the reef. Additionally, the Marine Park Act prohibits drilling and mining for minerals. In 2004, the Australian Parliament created a law prohibiting commercial activity in one third of the reef’s area. Thankfully, this marine park exists. If it was not for the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, this majestic masterpiece may not be considered the healthiest reef and be protected for years to come.
Banting, Erinn. Great Barrier Reef. AV2 By Weigl, 2013.
Hughes, Terrence. “Great Barrier Reef.” The World Book Encyclopedia 2011, World Book Inc., 2011, pp. 336–336.
Zimmermann, Kim Ann. “Great Barrier Reef: Facts, Location & Animals.” LiveScience, Purch, 14 Sept. 2012, http://www.livescience.com/6290-great-barrier-reef.html. Accessed 29 Oct. 2018
Photo credit: coralreefs.net