The iconic Great Barrier Reef is Australia’s most valued natural asset for its rich biodiversity, cultural significance, ecological scale and great beauty.
Made up of more than 3000 coral reefs, it is the biggest coral reef system in the world. But the Great Barrier Reef ecosystem comprises much more than just coral. Spanning an area greater than New Zealand, it is a vast network of environments ranging from estuaries, seagrass beds, mangroves and wetlands, to deep ocean areas and vegetated islands. It is home to thousands of species including turtles, seabirds, dugongs, dolphins and whales – many of which are threatened.
The Great Barrier Reef and its catchment are rich in Indigenous heritage and are an intrinsic part of the Traditional Owners’ culture. It also hosts many historic heritage sites such as shipwrecks, light stations and aircraft wrecks.
It is the interconnectedness of these different habitats and values, and how they work together, that makes the Great Barrier Reef so special.
The Great Barrier Reef is on the World Heritage List and is one of the richest and most remarkable ecosystems on Earth.
A place of wonder
The Great Barrier Reef is a place of great beauty and natural wonder that is close to the hearts of most Australians. Many communities along the Queensland coast and beyond use the Reef to boat, fish, sail, dive, snorkel and swim.
Supporting our economy
The Great Barrier Reef is an economic powerhouse, contributing more than $6.4 billion each year to Australia’s economy and about 64,000 jobs.
Figures reflect economic benefits before COVID-19 pandemic impacts on the international tourism industry.
Land use next to the Reef
More than a million people live in the Great Barrier Reef catchment, including small urban centres along the coastal strip. Industries that operate within the Reef (such as ports and shipping) or adjacent to it (such as agriculture) have an important relationship with the Reef.
The Great Barrier Reef is under pressure from a range of impacts. Climate change is the most serious threat to the Reef. Other threats include poor water quality due to run-off from the land, outbreaks of coral-eating crown-of-thorns starfish, coastal development and direct human uses like illegal fishing.
A plan for action
The Reef 2050 Long-Term Sustainability Plan is Australia’s overarching strategy for protecting and managing the Great Barrier Reef. It was developed in consultation with governments, scientists, industry, Traditional Owners and the community. Our vision for the Reef in 2050 is that: The Great Barrier Reef is sustained as a living and cultural wonder of the world.
Get on board
Protecting and caring for the Reef is a collective effort. Dive into the Reef 2050 Plan to learn more about how we are working together to help support the Great Barrier Reef.
Text version of Key Reef facts infographic
Key Reef facts
- Agricultural land makes up about 72 per cent of the 424,000 square kilometre Catchment.
- 70 plus Traditional Owner groups hold close connections to the Reef.
- Beaches and coastlines provide important habitat for marine turtles, crustaceans, worms, molluscs and approximately 80 per cent of Australia’s shorebird species.
- 14 coastal ecosystems connect catchment to the Reef.
- 15 seagrass species occupy extensive meadows along the Reef and are the primary food source for dugongs and green turtles.
- Over 880 species of algae provide food, habitat and reef stabilisation.
- 11 Lagoon floor ecosystems account for approximately 61 per cent of the World Heritage Area and support over 5000 species.
- 1050 islands (cays, continental and mangrove islands) support over 200 bird species.
- Approximately 1625 species of bony fish and 136 shark and ray species.
- There are over 1200 species of hard and soft corals that grow throughout the Reef.
- 73 per cent of surveyed Australian residents feel the Reef is part of their Australian identity.
- More than 30 species of marine mammals including whales dolphins and dugong
- 446 historic shipwrecks.
- 31 aircraft wrecks.
The Great Barrier Reef is one of the most complex natural ecosystems in the world.