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Large fields of donut-shaped mounds have been discovered behind the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. These circular mounds are each 200-300 m wide and some of them go as deep as 10 m. This discovery was made by the scientists from the University of Sydney and Queensland University of Technology. The scientists discovered this new natural wonder as they worked with high-resolution seafloor data provided by LiDAR-equipped aircraft. ALSO READ What makes Australia’s Great Barrier Reef so unique Interestingly, the existence of this new reef had been known to scientists since the 1970s and 80s but no one had anticipated the extent of their size, shape and scale right up until now. Robin Beaman from James Cook University called it an astounding revelation and told reporters that the discovery of the deeper seafloor behind the Great Barrier Reef was nothing short of amazing. According to scientists, these fields of donut-shaped rings are Halimeda bioherms, large reef-like geological structures that have been formed by the growth of Halimeda, a common green algae composed of living calcified segments. On dying these algae form small limestone flakes that don’t look very different from the very familiar cornflakes that we eat for breakfast. Over time, these flakes have built into large bioherms or reef-like mound. Also Read - Health Outlook of Great Barrier Reef Downgraded to 'Very Poor'
According to reports, scientists have so far mapped at least 6,000 sq km of the reef. This is thrice as large as they had initially estimated. The new reef that has been hiding behind the Great Barrier Reef extends all the way from the Torres Strait to just north of Port Douglas. Mardi McNeil from Queensland University of Technology said that they “form a significant inter-reef habitat which covers an area greater than the adjacent coral reefs”. DON’T MISS 10 spectacular photos of the best sightseeing spots in Australia Also Read - Campaign Launched to Make Great Barrier Reef an Australian Citizen
This discovery of this new reef has only highlighted the urgent need to control climate change. Being a calcifying organism Halimeda could well be susceptible to ocean acidification and warming. Beaman said that the impact of global climate change over centuries on these reefs has to be studied. Indeed, the 10-20 metre thick sediments of these reefs will also reveal the effect of climate change over the last 10,000 years on the Great Barrier Reef itself.
The Great Barrier Reef has been in the news for some months. According to reports, the Great Barrier Reef has been bleaching as a result of climate change and excessive tourism. Home to more than 900 islands spread across 2300 km, the Great Barrier Reef has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1981. Not only is it counted as one of the seven natural wonders of the world, it is also one of the few natural wonders to have a Google Street View!
Even though much of the Great Barrier Reef is protected by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, the Reef is in danger. According to scientists, the coral reefs of this natural wonder have been losing their color all thanks to global warming and, of course, excessive tourism. In fact several corals have also died and a lot more are on the verge of dying causing much concern to environmentalists. Even so, it figures on the list of several ‘must-visit’ places in the world the latest being the US News and World Report that named the Great Barrier Reef as a spot that should be ‘on every traveler’s bucket list’ and called it a treasure trove of once-in-a-lifetime experiences’. The Reef beat Paris and Bora Bora to top the list that was released just a few months ago. ALSO READ Great Barrier Reef is the best place to visit in the world! But why are we not celebrating?
The Great Barrier Reef is, without a doubt, the crown jewel in Tourism Australia’s crown. And why shouldn’t it be? It generates A$ 5 billion each year and welcomes almost two million visitors annually. This despite the fact that, by some estimates, it has lost more than 50 per cent of its corals! Until the ’90s most of the tourism in the Great Barrier Reef region was domestic and the most popular time for visiting the reef was during the winters. In that year, tourism contributed just about A$ 776 million. However slowly, the popularity of the reef grew. With the world getting smaller and people having more disposable income, visitors to the Great Barrier Reef increased. 2003 was a particularly busy (not to mention profitable) year when tourism in the region generated an estimated A$ 4 billion.
Two years later, in 2005, tourism contributed as much as A$ 5.1 billion according to an estimate. If a Deloitte report that has been published by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority in March 2013 is to be believed, the Reef’s 2,000 kilometre coastline helped the folks at Tourism Australia make at least A$ 6.4 billion annually and employed more than 64,000 people from the country.
The Great Barrier Reef dates back at least 20 million years back. It is home to six species of sea turtles that come here to breed, 30 species of dolphins and whales and more than 215 species of birds that visit and nest near the reef. Besides these 17 species of sea snakes have made their home in this spectacular natural wonder as have almost 1500 species of fish. In fact the Great Barrier Reef is home to more than 10 per cent of the world’s fish species. And since the coral reefs are living organisms, they make the Great Barrier Reef the largest living being on Earth. Stretching over 2300 km, the Great Barrier Reef can be seen from outer space. However, the Reef has been in danger of being destroyed and excessive tourism isn’t exactly helping. Excessive tourism has been affecting several other sites around the world.
Only recently, Thailand decided to shut down four of its islands — Koh Tachai, Koh Khai Nai, Koh Khai Nui and Koh Khai Nok — to tourists after it was reported that tourism was affecting their natural habitat.