Great Barrier Reef

The Great Barrier Reef is the largest coral reef system in the world. It’s located off the coast of Queensland, Australia. With 2900 different reefs and 900 islands, it stretches for over 1400 miles covering over 133,000 square miles.

Great Barrier Reef Facts for Kids

  • The Great Barrier Reef is home to 215 species of birds
  • The Great Barrier Reef is home 1625 species of fish
  • 6 different types of marine turtle are found in The Great Barrier Reef
  • You can see the Great Barrier Reef from space
  • There are over 22 seabirds that live by the Great Barrier Reef.
  • There are more than 32 shorebirds that live by the Great Barrier Reef.
  • The Great Barrier Reef is home to more than six species of turtles including the loggerhead sea turtle and the hawksbill turtle.
  • Most of the turtles come to the Great Barrier Reef to breed.
  • Near the coast of the Great Barrier Reef, in the marshes, are crocodiles.
  • There are over 15 different species of seagrass found close to the Great Barrier Reef including Halophila and Halodule.
  • The seagrass provides habitat to different animals that live on the Great Barrier Reef.
  • There are many endangered species that are part of the Great Barrier Reef.
  • At least 50% of the coral in the wetlands of the Great Barrier Reef has died.
  • The Great Barrier Reef is made up of over 900 individual islands.
  • The Great Barrier Reef is considered one of the “Seven Wonders of the World.”
  • The Great Barrier Reef is larger than Italy.

Why is the Great Barrier Reef Important?

The Great Barrier Reef is important because it is a place that has a large variety of different sea life.  There are over 1600 different kinds of fish that live in the Great Barrier Reef and many other animals swim around the Great Barrier Reef to hunt food and to make their homes.

What Kinds of Animals Live in the Great Barrier Reef?

There are many different species of animals that can be found in the Great Barrier Reef such as:

  • Sea Turtles
  • Clams
  • Starfish
  • Giant Clams
  • Seahorses
  • Sea Snakes
  • Sharks
  • Whales
  • Fish
  • Nudibranch
  • Stingray
  • Dwarf Minke Whale
  • Humpback Dolphin
  • Humpback Whale
  • Manatees
  • Clownfish
  • Red Bass
  • Red-Throat Emperor
  • Snapper
  • Coral Trout
  • Mollusks
  • Green Sea Turtle
  • Leatherback Sea Turtle
  • Saltwater Crocodiles
  • White Bellied Sea Eagle

Even though there are so many beautiful fish and animals that live in the Great Barrier Reef, it is also the place where some of the deadliest fish live such as the Box Jellyfish, the Stone Fish, and the Blue Ringed Octopus.


What Made the Reef Form?

Some of the Great Barrier Reefs are more than 500,000 years old while some are only 6-8,000 years old.

When the environment changed, there are remains that are left and these remain stack on top of each other.  The corals then began to grow around hills and on plains and these formed many, many coral reefs.  When the sea level gets bigger and the water gets warmer, the reefs continue to grow.


Coral is made from tiny animals that are called polyps.  These animals live because of the sun and they work with plankton fish and algae to help them grow.  Algae that is called zooxanthellae live in the tissue of the coral and they help to give the coral oxygen and food through photosynthesis.

The polyp gives the algae a home and they help the coral to absorb the carbon dioxide.

Why Are Coral Reefs Important?

Coral Reefs are important because they help the ecosystem.  They help because they help to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.  Reefs help to take some of the impacts away when big storms or waves.

Reefs also provide many animals with food and without them, many plants and animals would die.  Some people even think that coral can help to give medicines to people and some of the skeletons from coral reefs can help to substitute bone loss in human beings.


What Types of Reefs are There?

There are many different types of reefs such as the Crescentic reefs, flat reefs, ribbon reefs, deltaic reefs, fringing reefs, and lagoonal reefs.

  • Crescentic Reefs – are reefs that are shaped like crescents and they are the reefs that are mostly found in the middle of the Great Barrier Reefs.  Some of these types of reefs are found around Lizard Island and in Swain Reefs.
  • Flat Reefs  – are reefs that are found in the northern and southern parts of the Great Barrier Reef.  These reefs are also called planar reefs and are found places such as the Cape York Peninsula and Cairns.
  • The Ribbon Reefs – are found in the Northern part of the Great Barrier Reef and they are called that because they are narrow and wind like a ribbon.
  • Deltaic Reefs – are reefs that look much like river deltas.
  • Fringing Reefs  – are not very found and are usually found in the southern part of the Great Barrier Reef.  These reefs are mostly attached close to the mainland and found places such as Whitsunday Island.
  • Lagoonal reefs – are reefs that are found in the southern part of the Great Barrier Reef.  These reefs are found in places such as Princess Charlotte Bay.

What is Coral Made of?

Coral creates calcium carbonate.  Calcium carbonate is a hard-shell-like skeleton and that is what coral is made of.  When the coral stack, they can create different shapes and textures that are beautiful to look at.

How Big is the Great Barrier Reef?

The Great Barrier Reef is very, very large.  It is equal to the size of over 70 million football fields all put together.  It is the largest reef in the whole entire world.

The Great Barrier Reef is so big that even astronauts in space can see it.  The Great Barrier Reef reaches over 2300 kilometers and it starts at Torres Straight that is in the North and goes all the way to Bundaberg that is locate din the South.

The widest part of the Great Barrier Reef is over 65 kilometers wide and not only that, but the Great Barrier Reef has over 900 of its very own islands.

The Great Barrier Reef is from 35 meters to 2000 meters deep.  The inner reef is not as deep as the outer reef.

Why is the Great Barrier Reef in Danger?

Overfishing of natural wonders can deplete key reef species and damage coral habitat and have a devastating effect on marine life.

It’s in danger because people that go and visit the reefs. When there is a lot of tourists that visit, it can cause the reef to break or to die because they are very fragile. Inexperienced Scuba divers and people who snorkel are directly or indirectly responsible for damaging the reef life.

Another problem for the Great Barrier Reef is pollution.  Pollution such as oil spills can cause coral and other life in or around the Great Barrier Reef to die.

When the water gets low or the water quality is polluted, it can cause there to be toxins in the water.  When tropical floods happen, they can have pesticides and other harmful toxins in them, and this can cause the reef to die or to be harmed.

Water can also cause harm to the coral.  When the water temperature heats up, it can cause the coral to be bleached and this means that the coral turns white.

Another problem for the Great Barrier Reef is the Crown of Thorns Seastar.  The Crown of Thorns Seastar is an organism that feeds off the Coral Polyps.  Many of the corals have been destroyed because of the organism.

Coral bleaching is yet another problem caused by rising water temperatures and global warming.

What Can We Do to Help the Reefs?

People can help to protect the coral reefs by:

  • Not polluting the water.
  • Recycle
  • Conserve Water
  • Do not pick up or touch the coral reef when visiting them.
  • Do not put chemicals down the drain.
  • Use biodegradable products.
  • Don’t use live coral in your aquarium at home.
  • Pick up trash so it does not get in the water source.

The World’s Largest Reef System

If you have ever visited the Great Barrier Reef or any reef for that matter, you will know that they are teeming with life. They are home to thousands of different species of fish, corals, and other invertebrates. Some of these species are found nowhere else on Earth.

If the Great Barrier Reef were to disappear, it would take all of this life with it. This is why we must protect it.

Corals Are Alive

A coral is a creature that looks like a rock, but it’s alive. It’s made up of many tiny animals called polyps. Each polyp has a soft body and tentacles. The polyps live together in colonies. They are related to an algae that lives in their tissues.

The algae make food for the coral by using sunlight and carbon dioxide from the water. The coral uses the algae to make a hard outer skeleton. This protects the polyps and gives the coral its color. The polyps come out at night to catch small animals that swim by.”

Corals are marine animals that live in colonies. A coral reef is a huge colony of corals. The corals live together in a community, just like people in a town or city.

A barrier reef is a coral reef that is separated from the shore by a lagoon. A lagoon is a body of water that is surrounded by land.

The Threats To The Reef

The ocean is warming, and the coral is dying. If we don’t stop burning fossil fuels, the coral will die. When the temperature of the ocean gets too high, the coral gets stressed and expels the algae that live in its tissues.

The coral turns white and is said to be bleached. The coral will eventually die if the water temperature doesn’t go back down.”

 A Bleached Reef Isn’t Always A Dead Reef

Coral bleaching occurs when the algae which give the corals their color are expelled. When this happens, the coral is left without its primary food supply and is, therefore, more at risk of starvation and disease.

Coral can recover after bleaching providing that conditions return to normal and they are not put under strain too soon afterward.

There Is Hope For The Reef’s Return

There are a number of threats to the Great Barrier Reef, including climate change, ocean acidification, overfishing, pollution, and crown-of-thorns starfish.

There is no doubt that humans are the major cause of the decline of coral reefs, and that there are no effective measures being taken to stop it.

Do Prehistoric Creatures Still Live There?

The ocean is so big that the same things that live in it today have been living in it for millions of years. Some of the coral structures could date back millions of years, but so too could some of the creatures living there.

The nautilus is a distant cousin to the squid, but what makes this creature unique is that it appears to have remained relatively unchanged over the last 500 million years!

What Did You Learn?

  • What is the Great Barrier Reef?
    The Great Barrier Reef is an area in Australia that is made from different types of reefs.
  • Why is the Great Barrier Reef interesting?
    The Great Barrier Reef is interesting because it is the largest reef in the whole world.  This can even be seen from space!
  • Why is the Great Barrier Reef important?
    The Great Barrier Reef is important because it provides food and homes to many animals.  More than 10% of all of the fish in the world is found at the Great Barrier Reef.  The reef’s also helping to provide oxygen and help absorb carbon dioxide.
  • Why is the Great Barrier Reef in danger?
    The Great Barrier Reef is in danger because much of the reef is getting destroyed.  People destroy the reef by polluting the waters and by letting trash get into the water supply.  Other things cause danger to the reefs including different organisms, the water temperature, and more.
  • Can people help to protect the Great Barrier Reef?
    People can help protect the Great Barrier Reef by not polluting and by not taking the coral when they go and visit it.