Great Barrier Reef Fast Facts: Decoding The Scientific Secrets On The Reef

The Great Barrier Reef (GBR) is arguably the world's largest scientific laboratory. It's not immune to challenges - extreme weather events, catchment run off, and coastal development all place pressure on it, however conservation programs, education and research studies help to preserve and sustain its long term survival.

With the help of its six official research stations, The Great Barrier Reef is the best studied tropical marine eco system in the world. Here's a taste of the diversity of discoveries in, on and around the reef.

  • In 1928, Low Isles was the base for the very first scientific study of coral reefs anywhere in the world. Current scientific theories are based on this seminal research.

  • As a direct result of the scientific studies from Lizard Island Research Station*, more than 1000 scientific publications have been produced since 1973 providing vital information to reef managers helping conserve coral reefs. This station (run by the Australian Museum) is also ideally located for Crown of Thorns Starfish (CoTS) research and is where scientists first discovered the single shot injection technique to control the CoTS population (thus promoting coral recovery).

  • World's oldest GPS: Part of the research studies that have been conducted in Deepwater National Park (near Agnes Waters and 1770 in Queensland) have proven for the first time in the world that sea turtles return to within 100km of the beach where they were born, when it is time to lay their own eggs.

  • Recent research by the Australian Institute of Marine Science looked at the effects of noise pollution on fish populations. The research, recently published in Nature Communications, took place at Lizard Island and showed that predator fish gobbled twice as many smaller fish when motor boats were nearby. This is the first research to show noise pollution directly impacts fish survival. Mark Meekan, at the Australian Institute of Marine Science and part of the research team, said: “If we can reduce the effect of local noise pollution, we can build greater resilience in reef communities.”

  • Scientists at James Cook University (in Queensland's Tropical North) are currently studying the tentacles of box jellies to see how they can be used to restart the heart of cardiac patients.

  • The reef continues to be a potential source of new medicine to treat diseases, including cone shell venom as a cure for cancer – a case of killer becoming curer.

    Word Count: 395
    Author: Tourism and Events Queensland

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