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The Great Barrier Reef

The Great Barrier Reef is considered as the largest coral reef in the world. It stretches for 2,600 km. (1,616 mi.) and covers nearly 344,400 km 2 of area. It is situated in the Coral Sea, off the coast of Queensland in northeast Australia. It consists of over 3,000 coral reefs that varies in shapes and sizes (from one ha. up to 10,000 ha. of coverage area).

The Great Barrier Reef is the only living organism in the world that can be viewed from space. That is the reason why some people regard it as the largest single organism on Earth. However, in reality, the reef consists of numerous tiny organisms called coral polyps. Coral polyps lump together and form colonies, though each polyp is enclosed in a hard shell we know as a coral. Corals reefs are important to the environment and the ecosystem because they support the existence of various animals. As such, the Great Barrier Reef has one of the most diverse and rich ecosystems in the world. There are an estimated 1,500 species of fish, over 300 species of hard, reef-building corals, 200 species of bird life, more than 4000 mollusk species, and over 400 species of sponges identified in this reef -- earning it a place in the World Heritage Listed Areas. CNN even labeled it as one of the "Seven Natural Wonders of the World" while the Queensland National Trust named it as Queensland's state icon.

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