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Great Barrier Reef
In 1981, the Great Barrier Reef became Queensland's first world heritage area. It meets all the criteria for natural world heritage as it:
- represents major stages of the earth's evolutionary history
- is an outstanding example of ongoing ecological and biological processes
- contains superlative natural phenomena
- contains important natural habitats for conservation of biological diversity.
Stretching more than 2000 km along the Queensland coastline and covering 35 million hectares, the Great Barrier Reef is the world's largest coral reef, and probably the richest. More than 1500 species of fish, 4000 species of molluscs, 400 species of sponge and 300 species of hard corals live here.
Extensive seagrass beds provide a home for the threatened dugong. Threatened green and loggerhead turtles nest on islands in the Reef, and humpback whales migrate there to give birth. Birdlife is also abundant, and hundreds of species nest in the Reef islands.
The Reef is very important to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and there are significant cultural sites on many of its islands.
Protection and management
Made up of almost 3000 individual reefs and many coral islands, the Great Barrier Reef is largely protected in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, state marine parks and national parks.
The Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service, together with the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority. is responsible for managing the Reef and assocoated island national parks along its length.