Importance of the Reef
The Great Barrier Reef is one of the most remarkable places on earth. It’s integral to the lives and history of First Nations people, and highly valued by Australian and international communities having been on the UNESCO World Heritage List for more than 40 years.
- UNESCO World Heritage Area
The Reef was declared a World Heritage Area in 1981 because of its Outstanding Universal Value which includes it global importance and natural worth. World Heritage sites are places that are important to and belong to everyone, no matter where they are located.
- Deloitte Access Economics Report
A Deloitte Access Economics Report found the Reef is priceless and irreplaceable, calculating its total economic, social and icon asset value as $56 billion.
The Great Barrier Reef is larger than New Zealand, covering 344,400 square kilometres (around 70 million football fields). It stretches more than 2,300 kilometres along Queensland’s coastline and is made up of around 3,000 individual coral reefs.
Discover key facts about the Great Barrier Reef.
Current Reef health
The Queensland and Australian governments closely monitor Reef conditions and health throughout the year. Sea surface temperatures, rainfall levels, coral bleaching and cover, and coral-eating crown-of-thorns starfish outbreaks are assessed.
- Reef health reports
The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority issues weekly Reef health reports during summer and monthly reports during the cooler months.
- Overall health
The overall health of the Reef depends on the condition of many elements including water quality, wetlands, estuarine ecosystems and seagrasses, as well as coral and other species.
Climate change is the biggest threat facing the Great Barrier Reef, alongside problems that are more locally manageable. The combined impact of multiple threats makes it harder for the Reef to recover from serious disturbances.
Like all tropical coral reefs around the world, the Great Barrier Reef faces some serious threats which have the potential to further weaken its resilience.
- Climate change
The Queensland Government has set bold but achievable targets to tackle climate change and reduce emissions while creating jobs.
- Water quality
Land-based run-off is the greatest contributor to poor water quality in the inshore areas of the Great Barrier Reef. When it comes to the long-term survival of the Reef, the most manageable impact is reducing this pollutant source.
- Crown-of-thorns starfish
Coral-eating crown-of-thorns starfish outbreaks cause significant damage to coral reefs and have been one of the major causes of coral decline over the past 40 years. Taking direct action to manage outbreaks supports the Reef’s capacity to resist, repair and recover from threats.
- Other major threats
Learn more about the biggest threats to the Great Barrier Reef.
Hundreds of thousands of marine and coral species call the Great Barrier Reef home, making it one of the most unique and complex ecosystems in the world.
Case study: Preserving the wonder
The Great Barrier Reef is still great but faces some challenges. View the Preserve the Wonder video to explore how many people including rangers, farmers, scientists and the community are working to Preserve the Wonder of the Great Barrier Reef.