Welcome to the Great Barrier Reef, Australia

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Dive in deep to explore the only natural structure that can be seen from space! Discover the over 2,800 coral reefs that make up the Great Barrier Reef. See the highly diverse group of species that inhabit this undersea wonderland rivaled only in its diversity by the species of the tropical rain forest. See the mightiness of the tiger shark and the humbleness of the coral that supports these creatures. Meet the undersea tyrant know as the sea urchin and take a swim with the clown fish to explore its home the sea anemone. See the sea snake swims through the water. Experience the barracuda and dugongs as we take a dive into the shallow waters of Australians northeastern coast.

In this ecosystem the living organisms interact with the abiotic factors. There is no rain in this underwater world, but water is the source of oxygen in the ecosystem. The temperature in the area of the Great Barrier Reef is about 14 to 33 degrees Celsius. This is spread between two seasons because the reef is so close to the equator. Next, the sunlight goes through the clear waters of the biome giving the energy the producers need to make food for the rest of the food chain. All the biotic factors in this ecosystem are dependent on the abiotic factors. For example if the sunlight which allows them to produce food and energy for themselves didn't reach the producers they would die. Then all the organisms that depended on the producers as their source of energy would die along with all the organisms that depend on them for energy.

Tiger Shark
Tiger Shark
Colorful Coral
Colorful Coral

Biotic Factors

The Great Barrier Reef is like an underwater jungle. It's the home to thousands of species of fish. Such as, clown fish, eels, sea bass, sharks, and baracuda. The reason it is an underwater jungle is because of the coral everywhere. The coral itself forms the ecosystem known as the Great Barrier Reef. There are also, whales, kelp, and algea living in this variety filled ecosystem.


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The Reef through a divers eyes!........................................................................How many fish can live in one area?

Food Web:


Food Pyramid:


Abiotic Factors

There are many abiotic factors in this ecosystem. This consists of the sea floor, dead corals of the past, and rocks that the coral make their homes. This in effect creates the homes that the many fish live in the coral. Next, the producers need to perform photosynthesis to start the energy flow in the ecosystem. This is from the sun that beams through the clear blue water of this ecosystem. Oviously this ecosystem has water or the majority of the organisms in this biome wouldn't be able to survive.

Ecosystem Disruption

What would be the outcome be of an oil spill in the Great Barrier Reef?

What are the long term effects?
What are the short term effects?
How does the oil disrupt interactions within the ecosystem?

How is the oil cleaned/removed?
How can oil spills be prevented?

If an oil spill happened in close range of the Great Barrier Reef it would pose major problems for the ecosystem by disrupting the food chain and killing many organisms. Through our research we have discovered the long and short term effects of an oil spill, the ways to fix a spill, how they can be prevented, and how it disrupts the interactions within the ecosystem. An oil spill would prove to be not only being a problem for the ecosystem but also the Australian government. It would cost the government a lot of money to clean up and the clean up would take a long time. The spill would also kill many organisms by causing diseases such as cancer and make life harder for others by causing shortages of food and shelter.

Oil in the Water
Oil in the Water
The oil spills in the ocean causes disruption to the producers of the ecosystem such as coral algae and kelp. The oil causes a barrier between the plants such as coral kelp and algae on the sea floor and the sun. This causes the producers not able to perform photosynthesis. Without the producers making food, the entire food chain and energy flow of the ecosystem is disrupted. With the food gone the fish that rely on the producers for food will have to either find a new food source, or will die (Junio, Jeani). Direct exposure to oil can kill coral because it smothers it. Coral can also die by bleaching a process in which the coral loses its symbiotic algae and can die or be left with reproductive impairment, slowed growth and less capability to heal itself. Animals like the birds, otters and seals can be affected by oil because their water proof coating is removed when they come in contact with oil and this can cause hypothermia because without the coating the animals are exposed to cold waters. Birds can be weight down by oil and clams and other filter feeders can be killed because on the accumulation of toxins in its system when they feed and accidentally consume oil. If a predator consumes an intoxicated animal it can be left with its ability to breed, reproduce, grow, or perform other vital functions impaired. In the long run oil spills can cause cancer and other illnesses in animals, leave animals with the inability to breed, reproduce, grow, or perform other vital functions and can leave whole areas devoid of any life. (Junio)

Oil sits on top of Water
Oil sits on top of Water
An oil spill can be cleaned up in many ways which include spot washing, and burning the oil while it is in the water. During spot washing hand-held high pressure washing tools are used to remove small amounts of oil and then the left over water is collected. When burning is used to clean up an oil spill the oil is lit on fire in a controlled area which destroys the oil in the water. If the oil spill reaches the shore it can be cleaned up various ways which include tilling or raking, tarmat breakup or removal, and manual pick up. When the beach is raked the topsoil is turned over so the oil that is under the surface is exposed. When the oil is cleaned up manually using hand tools to collect and bag the oily materials it improves the appearance of the beach. During tarmat breakup tarmats, or thick asphalt like coverings of oil are broken up with hand tools and then scattered or collected. These actions are issued quickly because when oil mixes with water it spreads rapidly. One quart of oil can pollute up to 150,000 gallons of water. (Kelly)

How Thin the Hull is
How Thin the Hull is

Oil could enter The Great Barrier Reef's ecosystem in many ways such as through storm drains that collect a lot of oil waste from the streets and then pass it on to the world's oceans. Oil spills can also happen as a result of natural seepage from oil bearing areas. The most dangerous type of oil spill is one which dumps a large amount of oil all at once, this overloading the ability of the ocean to process oil into a less toxic form and can affect marine life very negatively. Oil spills can be prevented if oil tankers avoid heavily populated waters. Also, Oil tankers should have an extra layer added to its hull. This would help keep the oil in the tanker if the hull is damaged, and prevent leaking into the water. Next, the oil itself could be better protected in the hull, such as if the oil was in heavy metal tanks inside the hull.

Works Cited:

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"imformation for divers." pro dive crains great barrier reef australia. N.p.,
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Austalasia. N.p., 2009. Web. 7 Apr. 2010. <http://www.mesa.edu.au/habitat/kelp04.asp>.

ReefED. N.p., n.d. Web. 7 Apr. 2010. <http://www.reefed.edu.au/>.

Horton, Jennifer. "How the Great Barrier Reef Works." How Stuff Works. N.p.,
n.d. Web. 6 Apr. 2010. <http://adventure.howstuffworks.com/great-barrier-reef.htm>.

Junio, Jeanie. "Oil Spills in the Ocean." Buzzle. N.p., 2010. Web. 20 Apr. 2010.

Rice, Doyle. "Storms threaten to push Gulf oil spill towards shore." Science
Fair. USA Today, 23 Apr. 2010. Web. 26 Apr. 2010.

Smith, S. E. "How Do Oil Spills Affect Marine Life?" wisegeek. conjecture
corporation, 25 Mar. 2010. Web. 26 Apr. 2010. <http://www.wisegeek.com/how-do-oil-spills-affect-marine-life.htm>.

Kirmayer, Andy. "How Do Oil Spills Affect Coral Reefs?" eHow. eHow, Inc.,
1999-2010. Web. 26 Apr. 2010. <http://www.ehow.com/how-does_5454273_do-spills-affect-coral-reefs.html>.

Kelly, Mike. "Oil Spills." Air and Waste Managment. N.p., 2010. Web. 26 Apr.
2010. <http://www.awma.org/enviro_edu/fact_sheets/oil_spills1.html>.