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Great Barrier Reef
Transcript of Great Barrier Reef
Plankton are a type of single-celled algae (ROSE, 2008-2009).
The "Plankton" (1990-2010) webpage describes plankton as freely floating, microscopic organisms which form the first line in the marine food chain. The page divides them into phytoplankton, tiny plants that convert the sun’s energy through photosynthesis and zooplankton, tiny animals that consume other plankton. Some of these are larval stages of larger animals (Plankton,1990-2010).
Marine algae – Simple structured plants that have no roots, stems, or true leaves. They come in a variety of forms, ranging from single-celled plankton to large, long seaweed (ROSE, 2008-2009).
Marine algae are “the oldest members of the plant kingdom, extending back many hundreds of millions of years.”, (“Marine Algae, 2013). They can range from microscopic to over 100 feet long and rely on the sun’s energy for photosynthesis. Algae provide a food source for krill, plankton and giant clams.
Krill are shrimp-like creatures that live in huge schools (CRC Reef Research Centre Ltd, 2004).
According to the “Krill (1996-2013) webpage, krill "are essentially the fuel that runs the engine of the Earth’s marine ecosystems.” They feed on phytoplankton and a wide range of marine life feed on them.
These are the largest bivalve mollusks that have ever existed. They can grow to be more than a meter in length and may live to 70 years old or older (CRC Reef Research Centre Ltd, 2004).
The “Giant Clam” (2003-2013) webpage describes the giant clam as “the largest species of…mollusc in the fossil record, and the heaviest of all the living molluscs.” They eat plankton by siphoning and filtering water and they also have a symbiotic relationship with a tiny algae, from which they absorb the carbon by-products of photosynthesis. The algae are protected by the clam and feed on the waste products from the clam (Giant Clam, 2003-2013).
This type of jellyfish has eight eyes but no brain, so scientists are unsure how the box jellyfish interprets visual signals. They are a defensive animal with lethal venom (ROSE, 2008-2009).
These are the well known, highly toxic jellyfish that can harm or even kill human swimmers with their sting. They use it to immobilize and kill prey so they are not damaged during capture (Box Jellyfish, 1996-2013). They feed on fish that are unfortunate enough to swim too close.
Learning Team A:
Food Web Diagram
Jim Mergl, Shannon Worle, Beth Long, April Dunn, Brent Kuhn, Deedra Pearce, Darin Francis
September 2, 2013
Dr. Shawn Flanagan
Great Barrier Reef
What is the Great Barrier Reef?
Where is the Great Barrier Reef?
The Great Barrier Reef is:
Classified as "the largest single living organism on Earth" according to its website, GreatBarrierReef.com.au.
The reef is also made up of "a complex system of hard and soft corals that spans an overall length of over 2,600 kilometres off the eastern coast of Australia (Great Barrier Reef Food Web, 2012)." The Great Barrier Reef contains a grand total of over 344,000 square km of reef. Because of its vast nature, the Great Barrier Reef is home to a variety of sea life that we will come to explore.
Where is the Great Barrier Reef?
According to GreatBarrierReef.com.au, "While the Great Barrier Reef is technically classed as a single entity, in truth it is comprised of 900 islands and numerous reefs which lie at varying distances off the east coast of Queensland, Australia (Great Barrier Reef Food Web, 2012)."
The beginning of the reef can be found in the vicinity of Fraser Island (which is the world’s largest sand island. This island sits around 200 kilometres north of Queensland’s capital city of Brisbane). From there, the reef continues up the coast to the Torres Strait, then toward the northern tip of the state (WHERE IS THE GREAT BARRIER REEF LOCATED?, n.d.).
Some stretches of the Great Barrier Reef comes as close as to 15km to the shore of Queensland’s coast while the furthest distance is close to 65 kilometres from shore (Great Barrier Reef Food Web, 2012).
What lies beneath...
It is important to understand the vast food chains that lie beneath this beautiful water. First, we will examine the different types of organisms, including their classifications within the food chain (producers, consumers or decomposers). Then, we will discuss how our human activity has endangered wildlife in this region and the eminent threat to underwater wildlife as we know it.
The Sea Snake
This is the oldest fish on the Great Barrier Reef. It can live to be more than 50 years old (ROSE, 2008-2009).
McGrouther (2012) states that adult red bass range from a common size of about 20 inches up to 30 inches. They feed mainly on smaller fish and some crustaceans.
For additional information on the feeding habits of whale sharks, please view the video to the left (on the next slide).
White-tipped Reef Shark
Classifications of Major Organisms
Human Impact on the Great Barrier Reef
Pollution has made significant impacts on the Great
Barrier Reef. Certain estimates suggest that 22% of the world’s coral reefs are threatened by land-based pollution. Main-land based pollution stressing the coral reef ecosystems are chemical and nutrient based. This type of pollution includes fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides, human derived sewage, and large amounts of sedimentation from coastal land development.
About 80% of the land adjacent to the Great Barrier Reef
is farmland that supports agricultural production, intensive cropping of sugar cane, and major beef cattle grazing. These types of agriculture and cattle production pose large threats to the Great Barrier Reef close by. Fertilizers are highly used with agriculture and contain high amounts of phosphorous and nitrates (“Human Impact on the Great Barrier Reef”, 2011).
From the largest apex predators such as the White-tipped Reef Shark all the way down to microscopic organisms called Phytoplankton, no one marine creature could exist without another. This is reflected in the fact that if one life form becomes endangered, the rest of the reef suffers. Everything has a purpose, from a huge whale shark all the way down to a single coral on the reef. At times, it can be upsetting to think that some smaller species have to be consumed because the bigger fish have to eat too. All animals need to eat in order to survive so they have to do whatever it takes to make it on their own. This is the great science behind the food web of the Great Barrier Reef.
What makes the clown fish so special?
What makes the Clown Fish so special?
Symbiosis is the relationship that clown fish have with sea anemones. (An Exploration of the Clownfish, 2005).
Clown fish have adapted to their surroundings by producing a coating that prevents them from being stung. The clown fish eats algae and fish particles left over from the anemone. Therefore, the clown fish gets food while the anemone gets cleaned and better water circulation from the swimming fish. They also chase away fish that are polyp-eating. (An Exploration of the Clownfish, 2005).
Clown fish can reproduce in reefs because they lay their eggs in coral that helps protect them. Clown fish are born with male and female organs. Male clown fish can change sex if needed. (John G. Shedd Aquarium, 2006-2013).
Small bioluminescent organs are found on several places on a krill's body, they have a reflector at the back, a lens at the front and can be directed using muscles. Though the function is not fully known, it may be connected with schooling or mating. For this reason krill are sometimes called "light shrimp (Antarctic animal adaptations, 2001). ”
Krill have complex and highly developed compound eyes, one of the best visual structures in nature, though why this should be so in krill is a mystery. Some guess it is because of the algae that krill eat are so very small that they need great eye sight to see them (Kaddachi, 2010).
What Makes Krill So Special?
What Makes Box Jellyfish So Special?
The body of a jellyfish is divided into three main parts, the umbrella, the oral arms (around the mouth) and the stinging tentacles. These three main parts of jelly fish are perfectly adapted to living in oceans (Kaddachi, 2010).
The umbrella is made up of mostly water so they are perfectly camouflaged in the water. The mouth has hundreds of little spines that grab food and drag it into the mouth while the jelly fish swim and the stinging tentacles shock and poison their prey in seconds allowing them to eat on the go (Kaddachi, 2010).
According to National Geographic, "Box jellies are highly advanced among jellyfish. They have developed the ability to move rather than just drift, jetting at up to four knots through the water (Box Jellyfish, 2013)."
How has it adapted to its environment?
How have they adapted to their environment?
How has it adapted to its environment?
Producers are at the bottom of the food chain. They are able to make their own food and are photosynthetic. Producers include phytoplankton, algae, and many types of seaweed (ROSE, 2008-2009). The following are examples of producers in the Great Barrier Reef.
The following food web shows a variety of species found on or around the Great Barrier Reef. The arrows point from consumers to what they consume. For example, Humpback Whale eat plankton and krill (Great Barrier Reef Food Web, 2012). Before taking a look at the food web, we must first understand the role of producers.
Next, we will examine the consumers within the Great Barrier Reef. Consumers feed on primary producers and other consumers. This large group includes a variety of creatures from sea urchins and sea turtles to whales and sea birds (ROSE, 2008-2009). The remainder of the food web consists of consumers.
While not shown in the food web, decomposers play an prevalent role in the ecosystem of the Great Barrier Reef. Decomposers are responsible for breaking down dead biological matter and waste and converting it into energy. They are an important part of all ecosystems. Decomposers include bacteria, snails, sea cucumbers, and other scavengers (ROSE, 2008-2009). Let's take a closer look at some of the decomposers found in the Great Barrier Reef.
The Giant Clam
The Great Barrier Reef is home to 5,000 species of molluscs. They have feathery gills which allow them to absorb oxygen from the water (ROSE, 2008-2009).
Bunje (2003) describes molluscs as one of the most diverse groups of animals on earth – ranging from slugs and snails to large animals like cuttlefish, octopi and squid. Many smaller molluscs feed on plankton. The larger ones feed on various fish species and other molluscs.
On the “Seahorse” (1996-2013) webpage, National Geographic states that “Seahorses have no teeth and no stomach. Food passes through their digestive systems so quickly, they must eat almost constantly to stay alive.” They eat plankton and small crustaceans. They are between ½ an inch and 14 inches in size (Seahorse, 1996-2013).
Clownfish live among sea anemones which are poisonous and deadly to most other fish. They are the only fish not stung by the anemone with which they coexist. They eat the leftovers from the anemone’s diet and aggressively defend their territory and keep away organisms that damage the anemone. In return, they are able to live in a safe, colorful environment, protected by the deadly tentacles of the anemone (ROSE, 2008-2009).
What makes krill so special?
What Makes Sea Turtles So Special?
Red Sea Bass
The Great Barrier Reef is home to six of the seven species of sea turtles in the world. Sea turtles can live up to 100 years. Eggs are laid in the sand, and then hatchlings are carried out to sea by ocean currents where they may travel thousands of miles before returning as adults to lay their own eggs (CRC Reef Research Centre Ltd, 2004).
According to the “Sea Turtles” (2013) webpage, sea turtles are an ancient species that dates back to the age of the dinosaurs. They feed on jellyfish, shellfish, algae and molluscs.
What makes sea turtles so special?
Sea turtles front flippers are used for swimming, the back flippers are used for steering while in the water
Salt glands are used to get rid of excess salt in their bodies (Carrasco, n.d.).
Claws have been developed to help grab onto a mate in order to reproduce. In addition, the sea turtle's jaws are strong. Certain sea turtles have beaks with serrated edges to eat greens (SEETurtles, 2007-2013)
Sea turtles have low metabolism and their tissues are tolerant of “low oxygen levels” (Carrasco, n.d.).
How has it adapted to its environment?
These birds live on the coast and islands near the Great Barrier Reef and snatch fish from the water’s surface (CRC Reef Research Centre Ltd, 2004).
The “White-bellied Sea-Eagle” (2013) web page lists these large raptors as having an impressive wingspan of up to five feet! The web page also describes them as feeding “opportunistically on a variety of fish, birds, reptiles, mammals and crustaceans”.
Sea snakes can stay underwater for up to two hours before coming to the surface to breathe (CRC Reef Research Centre Ltd, 2004).
“Sea Snakes of Australia” (2013) identifies these venomous reptiles as producers of some of the most deadly venom in the world. They use this venom to immobilize their prey which consists of fish, mainly eels.
Whale sharks are one of the largest sharks and can be 12 meters in length. They feed on small fish, plankton, and jellyfish (ROSE, 2008-2009).
The tiger shark, with its blunt snout, large mouth, and stripes, is one of the largest sharks on the reef and can be 5 meters (CRC Reef Research Centre Ltd, 2004).
Knickle (n.d.) writing for the Florida Museum of Natural history lists the diet of Tigers to include “sea turtles, rays, other sharks, bony fishes, sea birds, dolphins, squid, various crustaceans and carrion.” However, he also states that they are clearly the most indiscriminate of feeders among sharks, eating almost anything (including human attacks). They are large predators, growing to an average of 8 feet or up to 17 feet in length (Knickle, n.d.).
These whales pass through the Reef every year. With a size that compares to 600 people, they are the fifth largest animal in the world (ROSE, 2008-2009).
The “Humpback Whale (2013) web page lists their diet as “tiny crustaceans (mostly krill), plankton, and small fish”. The females can grow to a massive 60 feet in length and males are smaller. These are the whales best known for their singing. They are also favorites of whale watchers as they can put on quite a display of breaching.
This animal is a closer relative to elephants than other marine mammals. They may grow to be 3 meters long and weigh 400 kilograms. They eat seagrass and can live up to 70 years (CRC Reef Research Centre Ltd, 2004).
According to the “Whitetip Reef Shark” (2013) web page, these sharks are rarely seen over 4 feet in length and they have a distinctive while tip on their dorsal and upper caudal (tail) fins. The page likens their behavior around reefs to that of moray eels than other sharks as they often root around in cracks and crevices in the reef. They mainly feed on fish, octopi and crustaceans (Whitetip Reef Shark, 2013). This shark is not aggressive by nature (CRC Reef Research Centre Ltd, 2004)
The sea cucumber is a slug-like fish that sucks algae and bacteria from mud and sand on the ocean floor (ROSE, 2008-2009).
According to the Monterrey Bay Aquarium, the sea cucumber "can shed its internal organs (eviscerate) when attacked by a predator." The organs are sticky, and they can get tangled with and distract the predator while the sea cucumber escapes. These organs regrow quickly, allowing the sea cucumber to utilize this tactic multiple times if needed (Monterey Bay Aquarium Foundation, 1999-2013).
These decomposers eat tissue that falls off coral, along with other microorganisms that can feed on dead and dying tissue. By eating this tissue and the microorganisms that thrive on them, furry crabs help protect the Great Barrier Reef (ROSE, 2008-2009).
Human Impact on the Great Barrier Reef (Continued)
There is very convincing evidence that runoff from farming is harming the Great Barrier Reef. The Queensland farms have been damaging the reefs because of increased run-off of agricultural sediments, nutrients and chemicals.
Sedimentation has a large effect on the Great Barrier Reefs that harms its fragile ecosystem. The sediments that flow out from rivers and that has large amounts of erosion that is carry with it, there is also the pollutants and fertilizers from the farms inland from the reefs.
Floating trash can cover reefs then blocking off sunlight that the coral polyps need to live. Turtles often mistake plastic bags for jellyfish and eat them. Plastic blocks the turtle's digestive tract, causing them to starve to death. Lost or discarded fishing nets can snag on reefs and strangle thousands of fish, and get wrapped around sea turtles and marine mammals causing their death (Human Impact on the Great Barrier Reef, 2011).
Over fishing has a direct physical affect on the reefs environment, it can have an effect on certain species in the reefs ecosystem. Even though there is recreational fishing in the reef, there is also unauthorized fishing in certain areas of the reef that are not suppose to be fished. When over fished the ecosystem overfishing occurs when overfishing affects multispecies grouping composition, food-web dynamics, or ecosystem function (Human Impact on the Great Barrier Reef, 2011).
Overfishing can destroy the marine ecology of the Great Barrier Reef because of the special needs of the coral reef. Since there are certain amounts of nutrients, oxygen and salt content that the fishes in the coral reef ecosystem have that help maintain the balance needed by the corals, with out these fishes the coral reef will crumple the coral reef. The Great Barrier Reef Park has several procedures to manage specific zones of fishing, they created the Australian Commonwealth law to protect critical areas in the reef. In 2003, 24% of coral reef habitats were included in “no-fishing zones” which is about 4% of the total park area.
The large number of tourists who visit the great barrier reefs are often only in two small areas, since they are only two small areas these visitor have a huge impact on the reef. They add to the pollution, waste, and water needs of the local population, putting local public services and habitats under huge pressure. For example, 85% of the 1.8 million people who visit Australia's Great Barrier Reef are concentrated in two small areas, Cairns and the Whitsunday Islands, which together have a human population of just 130,000 or so.
Careless boating, diving, snorkeling, and fishing have noticeably damage to coral reefs in the great barrier reefs by people touching reefs, stirring up sediment, and dropping anchors. Marine animals such as whale sharks, seals, dugongs, dolphins, whales, and birds are also disturbed by increased numbers of boats, and by people approaching too closely.
Global warming is caused by the increase in greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. These greenhouse gases trap in solar radiation to keep the heat within the atmosphere of the earth.
There are certain types of algae called zooxanthallae that lives in a symbiotic relationship within the tissue of the coral; In this relationship, the coral protects and helps provide nutrients to the zooxanthallae. This algae also helps the coral in photosynthesis and in the absorption of nutrients, which in turn helps the corals growth process (Impact of Tourism, 2013). The zooxanthallae is what gives the coral their beautiful colors. With out the zooxanthallae the coral have no color and are white. With the rise in the temperature there has been a depletion of zooxanthallae causing the coral to turn white, an effect known as coral bleaching (Impact of Tourism, 2013).
Coral reef bleaching is caused by the combination effect of increased temperatures, higher UV radiation, sedimentation, reduced lighting levels and salinity changes. Although it is not the only cause of coral reef bleaching, global warming is considered the primary effect. Because coral reefs can only survive within a very strict temperature bracket, the slightest bit of temperature change can disrupt the delicate balance of the coral reef ecosystem. When temperatures deviate too much, the zooxanthallae algae become disconnected from the coral; in other words, the algae lose their ability to adhere to the coral (Impact of Tourism, 2013).
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What makes the box jellyfish so special?