Have We Finally Solved the Great Barrier Reef’s Origins?


| LAST UPDATE 11/24/2022

By Amie Alfaro
Great Barrier Reef Australia
Oliver Strewe via Getty Images

Researchers may have finally solved the mystery behind the famous Great Barrier Reef's origins. Here's what they uncovered...

For the longest time, the origins of how the Great Barrier Reef was formed had stumped scientists. The beautiful coral reef was created years after conditions were suitable for this type of growth, but no one knew why or how it could still form despite all the barriers in its way. Now, a group of researchers may have found the answer. It could be in K'gari, which used to go by Fraser Island. The island is the world's largest sand island and has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Area. The island covers about 640 square miles. It is on the Australian coastline and juts out where the coastline extends east. K'gari is also located at the northern end of a longshore drift system. A longshore drift system is basically what it sounds like. It is a process where sediment is transported along the coastline. The study's researchers wrote for The Conversation, "If not for the presence of the K'gari, the sand carried by this system would continue to migrate northward directly into the area of the Great Barrier Reef…"

Fraser Island Beach Australia
Nico Soro via Getty Images
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The researchers established during their studies that the age of the K'gari is older than the Great Barrier Reef, so they think that the reef came to be because the island was protecting it from northern winds. They believe that the island was formed between a million and 700,000 years ago, which is only a few hundred thousand years before the Great Barrier Reef developed. Evidence suggests that the Great Barrier Reef was formed around 650,000 years ago. K'gari was essential to the Great Barrier Reef being created because there would most likely not be a reef without protection from the longshore drift system. Not only are reefs beautiful, but they contain many different species of marine wildlife and have their own ecosystem. The Great Barrier Reef is one of the seven wonders of the natural world and is the largest coral reef in the world.

Scientists will continue to learn more about the reef and its wonders. Read the study in its entirety. And stay tuned for more updates.

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