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  In the Coral Sea, between the Tropic of Capricorn and the equator, lies the Great Barrier Reef, one of the great natural wonders of the world. A barrier reef is a long, narrow, mostly submerged coral formation that lies parallel to the shoreline of a landmass. The Great Barrier Reef, which lies off the coast of Queensland in northeastern Australia, is the largest coral reef…
The Great Barrier Reef is a large system of about 900 islands and over 3000 coral reefs, which mostly lie some distance from the mainland coastline. The Great Barrier Reef, off Australia's east coast, is one of the wonders of the natural world. It is World Heritage listed and is one of Australia's, and the world's, premier holiday destinations. The combination of glorious weather (be aware that it rains a lot in the wet season!), pristine rainforest, white sandy beaches, and an ocean varying in hue from blue to turquoise to green, ensures it's where the world wants to go to lie on the beach, swim, surf, snorkel, sail, bushwalk and bird watch.

  More than 2 million people visit the reef each year generating more than $AU2 billion in tourism dollars, making tourism a major earner for the north-eastern Australian economy. Tourists are carried to the reef system by more than 500 commercial vessels, and tourism is permitted through nearly all the Park. Most of the Reef is part of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park and various parts of it are protected in certain ways - for example, fishing is restricted in some areas, particular animals - like whales, dolphins, green turtles and dugong - are protected.

  Disappearance of the coral gardens also has an impact on human activity - as the Great Barrier Reef's visitors are largely drawn to the area to experience the reef. The Australian Federal Government supports a range of research programs to investigate Crown of the Thorns starfish, their impact on the reef system and possible biological and other control mechanisms for them.

  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 live creatures that 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, brain and plate shapes.

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