Coral Sea
Overview
The Coral Sea is a marginal sea
Marginal sea
The term marginal sea has differing meanings. In one sense the term is equivalent to territorial waters. In another sense the term indicates a partially enclosed sea adjacent to or widely open to the open ocean, but bounded by submarine ridges...

 off the northeast coast of Australia
Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

. It is bounded in the west by the east coast of Queensland
Queensland
Queensland is a state of Australia, occupying the north-eastern section of the mainland continent. It is bordered by the Northern Territory, South Australia and New South Wales to the west, south-west and south respectively. To the east, Queensland is bordered by the Coral Sea and Pacific Ocean...

, thereby including the Great Barrier Reef
Great Barrier Reef
The Great Barrier Reef is the world'slargest reef system composed of over 2,900 individual reefs and 900 islands stretching for over 2,600 kilometres over an area of approximately...

, in the east by Vanuatu
Vanuatu
Vanuatu , officially the Republic of Vanuatu , is an island nation located in the South Pacific Ocean. The archipelago, which is of volcanic origin, is some east of northern Australia, northeast of New Caledonia, west of Fiji, and southeast of the Solomon Islands, near New Guinea.Vanuatu was...

 (formerly the New Hebrides
New Hebrides
New Hebrides was the colonial name for an island group in the South Pacific that now forms the nation of Vanuatu. The New Hebrides were colonized by both the British and French in the 18th century shortly after Captain James Cook visited the islands...

) and by New Caledonia
New Caledonia
New Caledonia is a special collectivity of France located in the southwest Pacific Ocean, east of Australia and about from Metropolitan France. The archipelago, part of the Melanesia subregion, includes the main island of Grande Terre, the Loyalty Islands, the Belep archipelago, the Isle of...

, and in the north approximately by the southern extremity of the Solomon Islands
Solomon Islands
Solomon Islands is a sovereign state in Oceania, east of Papua New Guinea, consisting of nearly one thousand islands. It covers a land mass of . The capital, Honiara, is located on the island of Guadalcanal...

. It merges with the Tasman Sea
Tasman Sea
The Tasman Sea is the large body of water between Australia and New Zealand, approximately across. It extends 2,800 km from north to south. It is a south-western segment of the South Pacific Ocean. The sea was named after the Dutch explorer Abel Janszoon Tasman, the first recorded European...

 in the south, with the Solomon Sea
Solomon Sea
The Solomon Sea is a sea located within the Pacific Ocean. It lies between Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands. Many major battles were fought there during World War II.-Extent:...

 in the north and with the Pacific Ocean in the east. On the west, it connects with the Arafura Sea
Arafura Sea
The Arafura Sea lies west of the Pacific Ocean overlying the continental shelf between Australia and New Guinea.-Geography:The Arafura Sea is bordered by Torres Strait and through that the Coral Sea to the east, the Gulf of Carpentaria to the south, the Timor Sea to the west and the Banda and Ceram...

 through the Torres Strait
Torres Strait
The Torres Strait is a body of water which lies between Australia and the Melanesian island of New Guinea. It is approximately wide at its narrowest extent. To the south is Cape York Peninsula, the northernmost continental extremity of the Australian state of Queensland...

.

The sea is characterised by its warm and stable climate, with frequent rains and tropical cyclone
Tropical cyclone
A tropical cyclone is a storm system characterized by a large low-pressure center and numerous thunderstorms that produce strong winds and heavy rain. Tropical cyclones strengthen when water evaporated from the ocean is released as the saturated air rises, resulting in condensation of water vapor...

s.
Encyclopedia
The Coral Sea is a marginal sea
Marginal sea
The term marginal sea has differing meanings. In one sense the term is equivalent to territorial waters. In another sense the term indicates a partially enclosed sea adjacent to or widely open to the open ocean, but bounded by submarine ridges...

 off the northeast coast of Australia
Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

. It is bounded in the west by the east coast of Queensland
Queensland
Queensland is a state of Australia, occupying the north-eastern section of the mainland continent. It is bordered by the Northern Territory, South Australia and New South Wales to the west, south-west and south respectively. To the east, Queensland is bordered by the Coral Sea and Pacific Ocean...

, thereby including the Great Barrier Reef
Great Barrier Reef
The Great Barrier Reef is the world'slargest reef system composed of over 2,900 individual reefs and 900 islands stretching for over 2,600 kilometres over an area of approximately...

, in the east by Vanuatu
Vanuatu
Vanuatu , officially the Republic of Vanuatu , is an island nation located in the South Pacific Ocean. The archipelago, which is of volcanic origin, is some east of northern Australia, northeast of New Caledonia, west of Fiji, and southeast of the Solomon Islands, near New Guinea.Vanuatu was...

 (formerly the New Hebrides
New Hebrides
New Hebrides was the colonial name for an island group in the South Pacific that now forms the nation of Vanuatu. The New Hebrides were colonized by both the British and French in the 18th century shortly after Captain James Cook visited the islands...

) and by New Caledonia
New Caledonia
New Caledonia is a special collectivity of France located in the southwest Pacific Ocean, east of Australia and about from Metropolitan France. The archipelago, part of the Melanesia subregion, includes the main island of Grande Terre, the Loyalty Islands, the Belep archipelago, the Isle of...

, and in the north approximately by the southern extremity of the Solomon Islands
Solomon Islands
Solomon Islands is a sovereign state in Oceania, east of Papua New Guinea, consisting of nearly one thousand islands. It covers a land mass of . The capital, Honiara, is located on the island of Guadalcanal...

. It merges with the Tasman Sea
Tasman Sea
The Tasman Sea is the large body of water between Australia and New Zealand, approximately across. It extends 2,800 km from north to south. It is a south-western segment of the South Pacific Ocean. The sea was named after the Dutch explorer Abel Janszoon Tasman, the first recorded European...

 in the south, with the Solomon Sea
Solomon Sea
The Solomon Sea is a sea located within the Pacific Ocean. It lies between Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands. Many major battles were fought there during World War II.-Extent:...

 in the north and with the Pacific Ocean in the east. On the west, it connects with the Arafura Sea
Arafura Sea
The Arafura Sea lies west of the Pacific Ocean overlying the continental shelf between Australia and New Guinea.-Geography:The Arafura Sea is bordered by Torres Strait and through that the Coral Sea to the east, the Gulf of Carpentaria to the south, the Timor Sea to the west and the Banda and Ceram...

 through the Torres Strait
Torres Strait
The Torres Strait is a body of water which lies between Australia and the Melanesian island of New Guinea. It is approximately wide at its narrowest extent. To the south is Cape York Peninsula, the northernmost continental extremity of the Australian state of Queensland...

.

The sea is characterised by its warm and stable climate, with frequent rains and tropical cyclone
Tropical cyclone
A tropical cyclone is a storm system characterized by a large low-pressure center and numerous thunderstorms that produce strong winds and heavy rain. Tropical cyclones strengthen when water evaporated from the ocean is released as the saturated air rises, resulting in condensation of water vapor...

s. It contains numerous islands and reef
Coral reef
Coral reefs are underwater structures made from calcium carbonate secreted by corals. Coral reefs are colonies of tiny living animals found in marine waters that contain few nutrients. Most coral reefs are built from stony corals, which in turn consist of polyps that cluster in groups. The polyps...

s, as well as the world's largest reef system, the Great Barrier Reef
Great Barrier Reef
The Great Barrier Reef is the world'slargest reef system composed of over 2,900 individual reefs and 900 islands stretching for over 2,600 kilometres over an area of approximately...

 (GBR), which was declared a World Heritage Site
World Heritage Site
A UNESCO World Heritage Site is a place that is listed by the UNESCO as of special cultural or physical significance...

 by UNESCO
UNESCO
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization is a specialized agency of the United Nations...

 in 1981. All previous oil exploration
Oil exploration
Hydrocarbon exploration is the search by petroleum geologists and geophysicists for hydrocarbon deposits beneath the Earth's surface, such as oil and natural gas...

 projects were terminated at the GBR in 1975, and fishing is restricted in many areas. The reefs and islands of the Coral Sea are particularly rich in birds and aquatic life and are a popular tourist destination, both nationally and internationally.

Extent

While the Great Barrier Reef
Great Barrier Reef
The Great Barrier Reef is the world'slargest reef system composed of over 2,900 individual reefs and 900 islands stretching for over 2,600 kilometres over an area of approximately...

 with its islands and cays belong to Queensland, most reefs and islets east of it are part of the Coral Sea Islands Territory. In addition, some islands west of and belonging to New Caledonia
New Caledonia
New Caledonia is a special collectivity of France located in the southwest Pacific Ocean, east of Australia and about from Metropolitan France. The archipelago, part of the Melanesia subregion, includes the main island of Grande Terre, the Loyalty Islands, the Belep archipelago, the Isle of...

 are also part of the Coral Sea Islands in a geographical sense, such as the Chesterfield Islands
Chesterfield Islands
Chesterfield Islands is a french archipelago of New Caledonia located in the Coral Sea, 550 km northwest of Grande Terre the main island of New Caledonia. Chesterfield Islands are a 120 km long and 70 km broad structure composed with 11 islets and many reefs...

 and Bellona Reefs.

The International Hydrographic Organization
International Hydrographic Organization
The International Hydrographic Organization is the inter-governmental organisation representing the hydrographic community. It enjoys observer status at the UN and is the recognised competent authority on hydrographic surveying and nautical charting...

 defines the limits of the Coral Sea as follows:

On the North. The South coast of New Guinea
New Guinea
New Guinea is the world's second largest island, after Greenland, covering a land area of 786,000 km2. Located in the southwest Pacific Ocean, it lies geographically to the east of the Malay Archipelago, with which it is sometimes included as part of a greater Indo-Australian Archipelago...

 from the entrance to the Bensbak River (141°01'E) to Gado-Gadoa Island near its Southeastern extreme (10°38′S 150°34′E), down this meridian to the 100 fathom line and thence along the Southern edges of Uluma (Suckling) Reef and those extending to the Eastward as far as the Southeast point of Lawik Reef (11°43.5′S 153°56.5′E) off Tagula Island [Vanatinai
Vanatinai
Vanatinai or Tagula is a volcanic island in the south-east of the Louisiade Archipelago within Milne Bay Province of Papua New Guinea. The reef fringed island is approximately south-east of New Guinea. With an area of , it is the largest island of the archipelago. Vanatinai town, the main...

], thence a line to the Southern extreme of Rennell Island
Rennell Island
Rennell Island, locally known as Mungava, is the main island of two inhabited islands that make up the Rennell and Bellona Province in the Solomon Islands. Rennell Island has a land area of that is about long and wide. It is the second largest raised coral atoll in the world with the largest lake...

 and from its Eastern point to Cape Surville, the Eastern extreme of San Cristobal Island [Makira
Makira
The island of Makira is the largest island of Makira-Ulawa Province in the Solomon Islands. The island is located east of Guadalcanal and south of Malaita. The largest and capital city is Kirakira....

], Solomons
Solomon Islands
Solomon Islands is a sovereign state in Oceania, east of Papua New Guinea, consisting of nearly one thousand islands. It covers a land mass of . The capital, Honiara, is located on the island of Guadalcanal...

; thence through Nupani
Nalongo and Nupani
Nalongo and Nupani is a small atoll in the Southwestern Pacific Ocean. It has a coral reef totally encircling a lagoon.Nupani Island, also called Nimba, is inhabited, while Nalongo has no permanent habitation....

, the Northwestern of the Santa Cruz Islands
Santa Cruz Islands
The Santa Cruz Islands are a group of islands in the Pacific Ocean, part of Temotu Province of the Solomon Islands. They lie approximately 250 miles to the southeast of the Solomon Islands Chain...

 (10°04.5′S 165°40.5′E) to the Northernmost Island of the Duff or Wilson Group
Duff Islands
The Duff Islands are a small island group lying to the northeast of the Santa Cruz Islands in the Solomon Islands province of Temotu. They are also sometimes known as the Wilson Islands....

 (9°48.5′S 167°06′E).

On the Northeast. From the Northernmost island of the Duff or Wilson Group through these islands to their Southeastern extreme, thence a line to Mera Lava, New Hebrides

New Hebrides
New Hebrides was the colonial name for an island group in the South Pacific that now forms the nation of Vanuatu. The New Hebrides were colonized by both the British and French in the 18th century shortly after Captain James Cook visited the islands...

 Islands [Vanuatu
Vanuatu
Vanuatu , officially the Republic of Vanuatu , is an island nation located in the South Pacific Ocean. The archipelago, which is of volcanic origin, is some east of northern Australia, northeast of New Caledonia, west of Fiji, and southeast of the Solomon Islands, near New Guinea.Vanuatu was...

] (14°25′S 163°03′E) and down the Eastern coasts of the islands of this Group to Aneityum Island
Anatom
Anatom is the southernmost island of Vanuatu. It is in the province of Tafea. The largest village is Anelghowhat , on the south side. The island is 159.2 km² in size...

 (20°11′S 169°51′E) in such a way that all the islands of these Groups, and the straits separating them, are included in the Coral Sea.

On the Southeast. A line from the Southeastern extreme of Aneityum Island to Southeast (Nokanhui) Islets (22°46′S 167°34′E) off the Southeast extreme of New Caledonia

New Caledonia
New Caledonia is a special collectivity of France located in the southwest Pacific Ocean, east of Australia and about from Metropolitan France. The archipelago, part of the Melanesia subregion, includes the main island of Grande Terre, the Loyalty Islands, the Belep archipelago, the Isle of...

, thence through the East point of Middleton Reef
Middleton Reef
Middleton Reef is a coral reef in the Tasman Sea. It is separated by a deep oceanic pass some 45 km wide from nearby Elizabeth Reef, forming part of the Lord Howe Rise underwater plateau. Middleton Reef is around 220 km from Lord Howe Island and 555 km from the coast of New South...

 to the Eastern extreme of Elizabeth Reef
Elizabeth Reef
Elizabeth Reef is a coral reef in the Tasman Sea. The reef is separated by a deep oceanic pass, some 45 km wide, from nearby Middleton Reef, both of which are part of the underwater plateau known as the Lord Howe Rise. Elizabeth Reef is around 160 km from Lord Howe Island and...

 (29°55′S 159°02′E) and down this meridian to Latitude 30° South
30th parallel south
The 30th parallel south is a circle of latitude that is 30 degrees south of the Earth's equatorial plane. It crosses the Atlantic Ocean, Africa, the Indian Ocean, Australasia, the Pacific Ocean and South America....

.

On the South. The parallel of 30° South to the Australia

Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

n Coast.

On the West. The Eastern limit of the Arafura Sea

Arafura Sea
The Arafura Sea lies west of the Pacific Ocean overlying the continental shelf between Australia and New Guinea.-Geography:The Arafura Sea is bordered by Torres Strait and through that the Coral Sea to the east, the Gulf of Carpentaria to the south, the Timor Sea to the west and the Banda and Ceram...

 [The entrance to the Bensbak River (141°01'E), and thence a line to the Northwest extreme of York Peninsula
Cape York Peninsula
Cape York Peninsula is a large remote peninsula located in Far North Queensland at the tip of the state of Queensland, Australia, the largest unspoilt wilderness in northern Australia and one of the last remaining wilderness areas on Earth...

, Australia (11°05′S 142°03′E)] and the East Coast of Australia as far South as Latitude 30° South.

Geology

The Coral Sea basin
Basin (geology)
A structural basin is a large-scale structural formation of rock strata formed by tectonic warping of previously flat lying strata. Structural basins are geological depressions, and are the inverse of domes. Some elongated structural basins are also known as synclines...

 was formed between 58 million and 48 million years ago when the Queensland continental shelf was uplifted, forming the Great Dividing Range
Great Dividing Range
The Great Dividing Range, or the Eastern Highlands, is Australia's most substantial mountain range and the third longest in the world. The range stretches more than 3,500 km from Dauan Island off the northeastern tip of Queensland, running the entire length of the eastern coastline through...

, and continental blocks subsided at the same time. The sea has been an important source of coral for the Great Barrier Reef, both during its formation and after sea level lowering.

The geological formation processes are still proceeding, as partly evidenced by the seismic activity. Several hundred earthquakes with the magnitude
Richter magnitude scale
The expression Richter magnitude scale refers to a number of ways to assign a single number to quantify the energy contained in an earthquake....

 between 2 and 6 were recorded in the period 1866–2000 along the Queensland coast and in the Coral Sea. Also, an undersea earthquake of magnitude 6.4 occurred in November 2008 near Vanuatu
Vanuatu
Vanuatu , officially the Republic of Vanuatu , is an island nation located in the South Pacific Ocean. The archipelago, which is of volcanic origin, is some east of northern Australia, northeast of New Caledonia, west of Fiji, and southeast of the Solomon Islands, near New Guinea.Vanuatu was...

, and on 2 April 2007, the Solomon Islands were struck by a major earthquake followed by a several metres tall tsunami
Tsunami
A tsunami is a series of water waves caused by the displacement of a large volume of a body of water, typically an ocean or a large lake...

. The epicentre of this magnitude 8.1 earthquake was 349 km (216.9 mi) northwest of Honiara
Honiara
Honiara, population 49,107 , 78,190 , is the capital of the Solomon Islands and of Guadalcanal Province, although it is a separately administered town...

, at a depth of 10 kilometres (6.2 mi). It was followed by more than 44 aftershocks of a magnitude 5.0 or greater. The resulting tsunami killed at least 52 people and destroyed more than 900 homes.

The sea received its name because of its numerous coral formations. They include the GBR, which extends about 2000 km (1,242.7 mi) along the northeast coast of Australia and includes approximately 2,900 individual reefs and 1000 islands. The Chesterfield Islands
Chesterfield Islands
Chesterfield Islands is a french archipelago of New Caledonia located in the Coral Sea, 550 km northwest of Grande Terre the main island of New Caledonia. Chesterfield Islands are a 120 km long and 70 km broad structure composed with 11 islets and many reefs...

 and Lihou Reef are the largest atoll
Atoll
An atoll is a coral island that encircles a lagoon partially or completely.- Usage :The word atoll comes from the Dhivehi word atholhu OED...

s of the Coral Sea.

Hydrology

Major Coral Sea currents form a counter-clockwise gyro which includes the East Australian Current
East Australian Current
The East Australian Current is an ocean current that moves warm water in a clockwise fashion down the east coast of Australia. It is the largest ocean current close to the shores of Australia. Its source is the tropical Coral Sea off the northeast coast of Australia...

. It brings warm nutrient-poor waters from the Coral Sea down the east coast of Australia to the cool waters of the Tasman Sea. This current is the strongest along the Australian coasts and transforms 30 million m3/s of water within a flow band of about 100 kilometres wide and 500 metres deep. The current is strongest around February and weakest around August.

The major river flowing into the sea is the Burdekin River
Burdekin River
The Burdekin River in Queensland, Australia rises on the western slope of the Seaview Range and flows into the Pacific Ocean at Upstart Bay over 200 km to the southeast of the source. The river was first encountered by Europeans during the expedition led by Ludwig Leichhardt in 1845 and named...

, which has its delta southeast of Townsville. Owing to the seasonal and annual variations in occurrence of cyclones and in precipitation (typically between 200 and 1600 mm/year), its annual discharge can vary more than 10 times between the two succeeding years. In particular, in the period 1920–1999, the average flow rate near the delta was below 1000 m3/s in 1923, 1931, 1939, 1969, 1982, 1985, 1987, 1993 and 1995; it was above 25,000 m3/s in 1927, 1940, 1946, 1950, 1951, 1959, 1968, 1972, 1974 and 1991, and reached about 40,000 m3/s in 1946. This irregularity results in concomitant fluctuations of the sea water composition near the river delta.

The surface water temperature varies on the south of the sea from 19 °C in August to 24 °C in February. It is rather warm and stable at 27–28 °С in the north all through the year. Water salinity is 34.5–35.5‰ (parts per thousand). The water is mostly very clear, with the visibility of about 30 metres (100 ft) near the reefs.

Climate

The sea has a subtropical climate and is frequently hit by tropical cyclone
Tropical cyclone
A tropical cyclone is a storm system characterized by a large low-pressure center and numerous thunderstorms that produce strong winds and heavy rain. Tropical cyclones strengthen when water evaporated from the ocean is released as the saturated air rises, resulting in condensation of water vapor...

s, especially between January and April. This range extends to November–May in the areas south to 10°S. Between 1969 and 1997, the GBR experienced 80 cyclones, 90% which were of category 1 or 2 (winds 17–33 m/s, central pressure 970–1000 hPa) and only 10% of category 3 (winds >33 m/s, pressure <970 hPa). The cyclone frequency decreased between 1997 and 2005 to 1.5 per year (12 in total).

Annual rainfall typically ranges between 1,000 and 3,000 mm depending on the area. Most rains fall between December and March, in bursts of 30–60 days. The number of clear days per year varies approximately between 80 and 125, and the typical temperature variation through the year are 18–27 °C.

Winds

Winds in the Coral Sea can be classified by season, longitude
Longitude
Longitude is a geographic coordinate that specifies the east-west position of a point on the Earth's surface. It is an angular measurement, usually expressed in degrees, minutes and seconds, and denoted by the Greek letter lambda ....

 and latitude
Latitude
In geography, the latitude of a location on the Earth is the angular distance of that location south or north of the Equator. The latitude is an angle, and is usually measured in degrees . The equator has a latitude of 0°, the North pole has a latitude of 90° north , and the South pole has a...

. Southeasterly trade wind
Trade wind
The trade winds are the prevailing pattern of easterly surface winds found in the tropics, within the lower portion of the Earth's atmosphere, in the lower section of the troposphere near the Earth's equator...

s dominate through all sea areas and all seasons, especially between 20°S and 25°S, west of the meridian of 155°E. However, between September and December they change to northerly and northwesterly winds in this region, and the direction is mostly southwestern in May–August. West of 155°E, gale
Gale
A gale is a very strong wind. There are conflicting definitions of how strong a wind must be to be considered a gale. The U.S. government's National Weather Service defines a gale as 34–47 knots of sustained surface winds. Forecasters typically issue gale warnings when winds of this strength are...

s are common between January and August and are less frequent in September–December.

In January, the northwest monsoon
Monsoon
Monsoon is traditionally defined as a seasonal reversing wind accompanied by corresponding changes in precipitation, but is now used to describe seasonal changes in atmospheric circulation and precipitation associated with the asymmetric heating of land and sea...

 may occur between the parallels of 15°S and 20°S, west of the 150°E meridian. Gales are rare in this region most of the year except for June–August, when strong southeasterly winds occur a few days per month.

The southeasterly trades are also strong north of 15°S between March and November. They weaken and often change to westerly winds in December and to northerly and northwesterly winds in January
and February.

Flora

The Australian shore of the Coral Sea is mostly composed of sand. The GBR is too far away to provide significant coral deposits, but it effectively screens the coast from the ocean waves. As a result, most land vegetation spreads down to the sea, and the coastal waters are rich in underwater vegetation, such as green algae
Green algae
The green algae are the large group of algae from which the embryophytes emerged. As such, they form a paraphyletic group, although the group including both green algae and embryophytes is monophyletic...

. The most common genera
Genus
In biology, a genus is a low-level taxonomic rank used in the biological classification of living and fossil organisms, which is an example of definition by genus and differentia...

 of seagrasses are Halophila
Halophila
Halophila is a genus of seagrasses in the family Hydrocharitaceae, the tape-grasses. The number of its contained species, and its own placement in the order Alismatales, has been subject to revision by botanical authors....

and Halodule
Halodule
Halodule is a genus of plants in the family Cymodoceaceae. It includes six to ten species of sea grass distributed in warm oceans.-External links:***...

.

The islands of the GBR contain more than 2,000 plant species, and three of these are endemic. The northern islands have 300–350 plant species which tend to be woody, whereas the southern islands have 200 which are more herbaceous; the Whitsunday region is the most diverse, supporting 1,141 species. The plants are spread by birds.

Fauna


The sea hosts numerous species of anemone
Anemone
Anemone , is a genus of about 120 species of flowering plants in the buttercup family Ranunculaceae in the north and south temperate zones...

s, sponges, worm
Worm
The term worm refers to an obsolete taxon used by Carolus Linnaeus and Jean-Baptiste Lamarck for all non-arthropod invertebrate animals, and stems from the Old English word wyrm. Currently it is used to describe many different distantly-related animals that typically have a long cylindrical...

s (e.g. Spirobranchus giganteus
Spirobranchus giganteus
Spirobranchus giganteus, commonly known as Christmas tree worms, are small, tube-building polychaete worms belonging to the family Serpulidae.-Anatomy and morphology:...

shown in the photograph), gastropods
Gastropoda
The Gastropoda or gastropods, more commonly known as snails and slugs, are a large taxonomic class within the phylum Mollusca. The class Gastropoda includes snails and slugs of all kinds and all sizes from microscopic to quite large...

, lobster
Lobster
Clawed lobsters comprise a family of large marine crustaceans. Highly prized as seafood, lobsters are economically important, and are often one of the most profitable commodities in coastal areas they populate.Though several groups of crustaceans are known as lobsters, the clawed lobsters are most...

s, crayfish
Crayfish
Crayfish, crawfish, or crawdads – members of the superfamilies Astacoidea and Parastacoidea – are freshwater crustaceans resembling small lobsters, to which they are related...

, prawn
Prawn
Prawns are decapod crustaceans of the sub-order Dendrobranchiata. There are 540 extant species, in seven families, and a fossil record extending back to the Devonian...

s and crabs. Red algae
Red algae
The red algae are one of the oldest groups of eukaryotic algae, and also one of the largest, with about 5,000–6,000 species  of mostly multicellular, marine algae, including many notable seaweeds...

 Lithothamnion
Lithothamnion
Lithothamnion is a genus of thalloid red alga comprising 103 species. Its members are known by a number of common names.Recorded common names are griuán, maërl, punalevä-suku, stenhinna and maerl. The monomerous, crustose thalli are composed of a single system of filaments which grow close to the...

and Porolithon
Porolithon
Porolithon is a genus of red alga comprising 15 species. The Porolithon are the primary reef building algae. When coral reefs reach sea level, the corals break under the high energy impact of the waves, while the coralline red algae, primarily Porolithon, continuing building and cementing the reef...

colour many coral reefs purple-red and the green alga Halimeda
Halimeda
Halimeda is a genus of green macroalgae. The algal body is composed of calcified green segments. Calcium carbonate is deposited in its tissues, making it inedible to most herbivores....

is found throughout the sea. The coastal plants consisting of only about 30–40 species, and mangrove
Mangrove
Mangroves are various kinds of trees up to medium height and shrubs that grow in saline coastal sediment habitats in the tropics and subtropics – mainly between latitudes N and S...

s occur in the northern part of the sea. Four hundred coral species, both hard corals and soft corals inhabit the reefs. The majority of these spawn gamete
Gamete
A gamete is a cell that fuses with another cell during fertilization in organisms that reproduce sexually...

s, breeding in mass spawning events that are triggered by the rising sea temperatures of spring and summer, the lunar cycle, and the diurnal cycle. Reefs in the inner GBR spawn during the week after the full moon in October, while the outer reefs spawn in November and December. Its common soft corals belong to 36 genera. There are more than 1500 fish species in the reef systems. Five hundred species of marine algae or seaweed
Seaweed
Seaweed is a loose, colloquial term encompassing macroscopic, multicellular, benthic marine algae. The term includes some members of the red, brown and green algae...

 live on the reef, including thirteen species of the Halimeda
Halimeda
Halimeda is a genus of green macroalgae. The algal body is composed of calcified green segments. Calcium carbonate is deposited in its tissues, making it inedible to most herbivores....

genus, which deposit calcareous
Calcareous
Calcareous is an adjective meaning mostly or partly composed of calcium carbonate, in other words, containing lime or being chalky. The term is used in a wide variety of scientific disciplines.-In zoology:...

 mounds up to 100 metres (109.4 yd) wide, creating mini-ecosystem
Ecosystem
An ecosystem is a biological environment consisting of all the organisms living in a particular area, as well as all the nonliving , physical components of the environment with which the organisms interact, such as air, soil, water and sunlight....

s on their surface which have been compared to rainforest
Rainforest
Rainforests are forests characterized by high rainfall, with definitions based on a minimum normal annual rainfall of 1750-2000 mm...

 cover.

Crown-of-thorns starfish (Acanthaster planci) is the major predator of the reefs, as it preys upon coral polyps by climbing onto them, extruding its stomach over them, and releasing digestive enzyme
Digestive enzyme
'Digestive enzymes' are enzymes that break down polymeric macromolecules into their smaller building blocks, in order to facilitate their absorption by the body. Digestive enzymes are found in the digestive tract of animals where they aid in the digestion of food as well as inside the cells,...

s to absorb the liquefied tissue. An individual adult can eat up to 6 m2 of reef per year. In 2000, an outbreak of crown-of-thorns starfish contributed to a loss of 66% of live coral cover on sampled reefs. Changes in water quality and overfishing
Overfishing
Overfishing occurs when fishing activities reduce fish stocks below an acceptable level. This can occur in any body of water from a pond to the oceans....

 of natural predators, such as the Giant Triton
Triton (mollusk)
Triton is the common name given to a number of very large sea snails, predatory marine gastropods in the genus Charonia. The name "triton" is also often applied as part of the common name, to other, much smaller sea snails of other genera within the same family, Ranellidae.Tritons are named after...

, may have contributed to an increase in the number of crown-of-thorns starfish.

There are at least 30 species of whales, dolphins, and porpoises, including the dwarf minke whale
Minke Whale
Minke whale , or lesser rorqual, is a name given to two species of marine mammal belonging to a clade within the suborder of baleen whales. The minke whale was given its official designation by Lacepède in 1804, who described a dwarf form of Balænoptera acuto-rostrata...

, Indo-Pacific humpback dolphin
Humpback dolphin
Humpback dolphins are members of the genus Sousa. These dolphins are characterized by the conspicuous humps and elongated dorsal fins found on the back of adult members of the species...

, humpback whale
Humpback Whale
The humpback whale is a species of baleen whale. One of the larger rorqual species, adults range in length from and weigh approximately . The humpback has a distinctive body shape, with unusually long pectoral fins and a knobbly head. It is an acrobatic animal, often breaching and slapping the...

 and dugong
Dugong
The dugong is a large marine mammal which, together with the manatees, is one of four living species of the order Sirenia. It is the only living representative of the once-diverse family Dugongidae; its closest modern relative, Steller's sea cow , was hunted to extinction in the 18th century...

s. Six species of sea turtle
Sea turtle
Sea turtles are marine reptiles that inhabit all of the world's oceans except the Arctic.-Distribution:...

s breed on the GBR – the green sea turtle
Green Sea Turtle
The Green sea turtle or green turtle is a large sea turtle of the family Cheloniidae. It is the only species in the genus Chelonia. Its range extends throughout tropical and subtropical seas around the world, with two distinct populations in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans...

, leatherback sea turtle
Leatherback Sea Turtle
The leatherback sea turtle is the largest of all living sea turtles and the fourth largest modern reptile behind three crocodilians. It is the only living species in the genus Dermochelys. It can easily be differentiated from other modern sea turtles by its lack of a bony shell. Instead, its...

, hawksbill turtle
Hawksbill turtle
The hawksbill sea turtle is a critically endangered sea turtle belonging to the family Cheloniidae. It is the only extant species in its genus. The species has a worldwide distribution, with Atlantic and Pacific subspecies. E. imbricata imbricata is the Atlantic subspecies, while E...

, loggerhead sea turtle
Loggerhead sea turtle
The loggerhead sea turtle , or loggerhead, is an oceanic turtle distributed throughout the world. It is a marine reptile, belonging to the family Cheloniidae. The average loggerhead measures around long when fully grown, although larger specimens of up to have been discovered...

, flatback turtle
Flatback Turtle
The flatback sea turtle is a sea turtle that is endemic to the continental shelf of Australia. Flatback turtles belong to the Cheloniidae, or sea turtle, superfamily and are the only species found in the genus Natator....

 and the Olive Ridley
Olive Ridley
The olive ridley sea turtle , also known as the Pacific ridley, is a species of sea turtle.- Description :The olive ridley is a small extant sea turtle, with an adult carapace length averaging 60 to 70 cm 1...

.

More than 200 species of birds (including 22 species of seabirds and 32 species of shorebirds) visit, nest or roost on the islands and reefs, including the white-bellied sea eagle
White-bellied Sea Eagle
The White-bellied Sea Eagle , also known as the White-breasted Sea Eagle, is a large diurnal bird of prey in the family Accipitridae. Originally described by Johann Friedrich Gmelin in 1788, it is closely related to Sanford's Sea Eagle of the Solomon Islands, and the two are considered a superspecies...

 and roseate tern
Roseate Tern
The Roseate Tern is a seabird of the tern family Sternidae. This bird has a number of geographical races, differing mainly in bill colour and minor plumage details....

. Most nesting sites are on islands in the northern and southern regions of the GBR, with 1.4–1.7 million birds using the sites to breed.

Seventeen species of sea snake, including Laticauda colubrina
Laticauda colubrina
The colubrine sea krait, banded sea krait or yellow-lipped sea krait is a species of sea snake found in tropical Indo-Pacific oceanic waters....

(pictured), live on the GBR in warm waters up to 50 metres (164 ft) deep and are more common in the southern than in the northern section; none of them are endemic or endangered. The venom of many of these snakes is highly toxic; for example, Aipysurus duboisii
Aipysurus duboisii
Aipysurus duboisii or Dubois' seasnake is a species of sea snake. Their habitat includes Papua New Guinea, New Caledonia and the northern, eastern and western coastal areas of Australia, that is the Coral Sea, Arafura Sea, Timor Sea and Indian Ocean...

is regarded as the world's most poisonous sea snake.

There are more than 1,500 fish species, including the clownfish (Amphiprioninae), red bass (Lutjanus bohar
Lutjanus bohar
The Two-spot red snapper is a species that belongs to the genus of Lutjanus. It is also known as Twinspot snapper or Bohar snapper. Length up to 80 cm. Juvenile has two white spot on the dorsal fins. Adult snappers often form large schools on the outer reefs or above sandy areas. The main...

), red-throat emperor (Lethrinus miniatus), coral trout
Coral trout
The coral trout, leopard coral grouper, or leopard coral trout is a species of fish in the Serranidae family. Native to the western Pacific Ocean, its natural habitat includes open seas and coral reefs...

 (Plectropomus leopardus) and several species of snapper (Lutjanidae
Lutjanidae
Snappers are a family of perciform fish, mainly marine but with some members inhabiting estuaries, feeding in freshwater. Some are important food fish. One of the best known is the red snapper....

). Forty-nine species mass spawn
Reproductive synchrony
Reproductive synchrony is a term used in evolutionary biology and behavioural ecology. Reproductive synchrony — sometimes termed 'ovulatory synchrony' — may manifest itself as 'breeding seasonality'...

 and eighty-four other species spawn elsewhere in their range. With a maximum total length of 8.4 millimetres (0.33 in), Schindleria brevipinguis
Schindleria brevipinguis
Schindleria brevipinguis is a species of marine fish in family Schindleriidae of Perciformes. Known as the stout infantfish, it is native to Australia's Great Barrier Reef and to Osprey Reef in the Coral Sea....

, which is native to the GBR and Osprey Reef, is one of the smallest known fish and vertebrate. There are at least 330 species of ascidians on the reef system with the diameter of 1–10 cm (0.393700787401575–3.9 in). Between 300 and 500 species of bryozoans live on the reef.

Saltwater crocodile
Saltwater Crocodile
The saltwater crocodile, also known as estuarine or Indo-Pacific crocodile, is the largest of all living reptiles...

s live in mangrove
Mangrove
Mangroves are various kinds of trees up to medium height and shrubs that grow in saline coastal sediment habitats in the tropics and subtropics – mainly between latitudes N and S...

 and salt marsh
Salt marsh
A salt marsh is an environment in the upper coastal intertidal zone between land and salt water or brackish water, it is dominated by dense stands of halophytic plants such as herbs, grasses, or low shrubs. These plants are terrestrial in origin and are essential to the stability of the salt marsh...

es on the coast. Around 125 species of shark
Shark
Sharks are a type of fish with a full cartilaginous skeleton and a highly streamlined body. The earliest known sharks date from more than 420 million years ago....

, stingray
Stingray
The stingrays are a group of rays, which are cartilaginous fishes related to sharks. They are classified in the suborder Myliobatoidei of the order Myliobatiformes, and consist of eight families: Hexatrygonidae , Plesiobatidae , Urolophidae , Urotrygonidae , Dasyatidae , Potamotrygonidae The...

, skate
Skate
Skates are cartilaginous fish belonging to the family Rajidae in the superorder Batoidea of rays. There are more than 200 described species in 27 genera. There are two subfamilies, Rajinae and Arhynchobatinae ....

s or chimaera
Chimaera
Chimaeras are cartilaginous fish in the order Chimaeriformes, known informally as ghost sharks, ratfish , spookfish , or rabbitfishes...

 live on the GBR, in addition to about 5,000 species of mollusc. The latter include the giant clam
Giant clam
The giant clam, Tridacna gigas , is the largest living bivalve mollusc. T. gigas is one of the most endangered clam species. It was mentioned as early as 1825 in scientific reports...

 and various nudibranch
Nudibranch
A nudibranch is a member of what is now a taxonomic clade, and what was previously a suborder, of soft-bodied, marine gastropod mollusks which shed their shell after their larval stage. They are noted for their often extraordinary colors and striking forms...

s and cone snail
Cone snail
Conidae is a taxonomic family of minute to quite large sea snails, marine gastropod molluscs in the superfamily Conoidea.The snails within this family are sophisticated predatory animals...

s.

One study of 443 individual sharks gives the following distribution of their species on the Australian side of the Coral Sea: grey reef shark (Carcharhinus amblyrhynchos, 69%), whitetip reef shark (Triaenodon obesus, 21%), silvertip shark (Carcharhinus albimarginatus, 10%), tiger shark (Galeocerdo cuvier, <1%) and great hammerhead (Sphyrna mokarran, <1%). The interaction rate (free diving) at the Coral Sea reefs ranged from a few to 26 sharks per
hour. The rare Etmopterus dislineatus
Etmopterus dislineatus
Etmopterus dislineatus is a shark of the family Etmopteridae found in the central Coral Sea at depths of between 590 and 800 m. Its length is up to 45 cm.Reproduction is ovoviviparous.-References:...

shark species is endemic to the central part of the Coral Sea. It has been observed at depths of 590–700 m on or near the continental slope.

Human activities

The coastal areas of the Coral Sea were populated at least 40,000 years ago by prehistoric people descending through the northern islands. Those Aboriginal tribes have been dispersed and nowadays only about 70 groups live in the area around the GBR.

The sea was the location for the Battle of the Coral Sea
Battle of the Coral Sea
The Battle of the Coral Sea, fought from 4–8 May 1942, was a major naval battle in the Pacific Theater of World War II between the Imperial Japanese Navy and Allied naval and air forces from the United States and Australia. The battle was the first fleet action in which aircraft carriers engaged...

, major confrontation during World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 between the navies of the Empire of Japan
Empire of Japan
The Empire of Japan is the name of the state of Japan that existed from the Meiji Restoration on 3 January 1868 to the enactment of the post-World War II Constitution of...

, and the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 and Australia
Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

.

Navigation has long been a traditional human activity on the Coral Sea and there are 10 major ports on the Queensland coast alone. More than 3,500 ships operated in this area in 2007, making over 9,700 voyages that transported coal, sugar, iron ore, timber, oil, chemicals, cattle and other goods. The abundance of coral reefs hinders shipping traffic, and about 50–60 accidents per year were reported between 1990 and 2007 in the GBR alone.

Other economic activities in the sea include fishing and exploration of petroleum deposits in the Gulf of Papua. The sea is also a popular tourism destination. In 2006–2007, tourism on the GBR contributed A$5.1 billion to the Australian economy. The tourism is mostly foreign or from remote parts of Australia, with a local contribution of about A$153 million. In particular, about 14.6 million visits were made to the Coral Sea reefs by the Queensland residents over 12 months in 2008. Growing concerns over the environmental effects of tourism resulted in establishment in 1975 of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park
Great Barrier Reef Marine Park
The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park protects a large part of Australia's Great Barrier Reef from damaging activities. Fishing and the removal of artefacts or...

. There are also smaller state and national parks. In 1981, the Great Barrier Reef was declared a World Heritage Site
World Heritage Site
A UNESCO World Heritage Site is a place that is listed by the UNESCO as of special cultural or physical significance...

 by UNESCO
UNESCO
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization is a specialized agency of the United Nations...

. From the middle of 2004, approximately one-third of the GBR Marine Park is protected from species removal of any kind, including fishing, without written permission.

It was suggested in 1923 that the Great Barrier Reef contains a major oil reservoir
Oil reservoir
A petroleum reservoir, or oil and gas reservoir, is a subsurface pool of hydrocarbons contained in porous or fractured rock formations. The naturally occurring hydrocarbons, such as crude oil or natural gas, are trapped by overlying rock formations with lower permeability...

. After the Commonwealth Petroleum Search Subsidies Act of 1957, hydrocarbon exploration increased in Queensland, including a well drilled at Wreck Island
Wreck Island (Queensland)
Wreck Island is a small coral cay. It is located near the Tropic of Capricorn in the southern Great Barrier Reef, 93 km due northe east of Gladstone, Queensland, Australia, and 460 km north of the state capital Brisbane....

 in the southern Great Barrier Reef in 1959. In the 1960s, drilling for oil and gas was investigated throughout the Great Barrier Reef, in the Torres Strait
Torres Strait
The Torres Strait is a body of water which lies between Australia and the Melanesian island of New Guinea. It is approximately wide at its narrowest extent. To the south is Cape York Peninsula, the northernmost continental extremity of the Australian state of Queensland...

, along "the eastern seaboard of Cape York
Cape York Peninsula
Cape York Peninsula is a large remote peninsula located in Far North Queensland at the tip of the state of Queensland, Australia, the largest unspoilt wilderness in northern Australia and one of the last remaining wilderness areas on Earth...

 to Princess Charlotte Bay
Princess Charlotte Bay
Princess Charlotte Bay is a large bay on the east coast of Far North Queensland at the base of Cape York Peninsula, 350 km north northwest of Cairns. Princess Charlotte Bay is a part of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park and it is a habitat for the dugong....

" and along the coast from Cooktown to Fraser Island. In the late 1960s, more exploratory oil wells were drilled near Wreck Island in the Capricorn Channel, and near Darnley Island in the Torres Strait, but with no results. In the 1970s, responding to concern about oil spill
Oil spill
An oil spill is the release of a liquid petroleum hydrocarbon into the environment, especially marine areas, due to human activity, and is a form of pollution. The term is mostly used to describe marine oil spills, where oil is released into the ocean or coastal waters...

s, the Australian government forbade petroleum drilling on the GBR. Yet oil spills due to shipping accidents are still a threat to environment, with a total of 282 spills between 1987 and 2002.
Queensland has several major urban centres on the coast including Cairns, Townsville, Mackay
Mackay, Queensland
Mackay is a city on the eastern coast of Queensland, Australia, about north of Brisbane, on the Pioneer River. Mackay is nicknamed the sugar capital of Australia because its region produces more than a third of Australia's cane sugar....

, Rockhampton
Rockhampton
Rockhampton can refer to:* Rockhampton, Queensland is a city in Queensland, Australia* Rockhampton City, Queensland, a suburb of Rockhampton, Queensland* Electoral district of Rockhampton, Queensland, Australia...

, Bundaberg, Sunshine Coast
Sunshine Coast, Queensland
The Sunshine Coast is an urban area in South East Queensland, north of the state capital of Brisbane on the Pacific Ocean coastline. Although it does not have a central business district, by population it ranks as the 10th largest metropolis in Australia and the third largest in...

 and the industrial city of Gladstone
Gladstone, Queensland
- Education :Gladstone has several primary schools, three high schools, and one university campus, Central Queensland University. It is also home to CQIT Gladstone Campus.- Recreation :...

, which inevitably contaminate the sea. About thirty rivers and hundreds of small streams add continental water, which contains sediments, pesticides and industrial waste. Runoff is especially concerning in the region south of Cairns, as it may receive up to 4200 mm of rain per year. About 90% of sea contamination originates from land farming activities. The area is continuously urbanising, so that the population is expected to increase by 40% by 2026. As a result, 70–90% of the coastal wetlands has been lost over the past decades, and many remaining flora species are endangered.

On 3 April 2010, the Chinese ship Shen Neng 1 carrying 950 tonnes of oil, ran aground east of Rockhampton
Rockhampton
Rockhampton can refer to:* Rockhampton, Queensland is a city in Queensland, Australia* Rockhampton City, Queensland, a suburb of Rockhampton, Queensland* Electoral district of Rockhampton, Queensland, Australia...

 in Central Queensland
Central Queensland
Central Queensland is an ambiguous geographical division of Queensland that centres on the eastern coast, around the Tropic of Capricorn. Its major regional centre is Rockhampton and the Capricorn Coast and the area extends west to the Central Highlands at Emerald, north to the Mackay Regional...

, Australia
Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

, causing the 2010 Great Barrier Reef oil spill
2010 Great Barrier Reef oil spill
The 2010 Great Barrier Reef oil spill occurred on 3 April 2010, when the Chinese bulk coal carrier, ran aground east of Rockhampton in Central Queensland, Australia. The vessel is owned by Shenzhen Energy Transport Co. Ltd....

 and inflicting the largest damage to the GBR and the Coral Sea so far. The scarred area was roughly 3 km (1.9 mi) long and 250 m (820.2 ft) wide, and some parts of it have become completely devoid of marine life. There are concerns that there could be considerable long-term damage and it will take 10 to 20 years for the reef to recover. By 13 April 2010, oil tar balls
Tarball (oil)
A tarball is a blob of petroleum which has been weathered after floating in the ocean. Tarballs are an aquatic pollutant in most environments, although they can occur naturally and as such are not always associated with oil spills....

 were washing up on the beaches of North West Island
North West Island
North West Island is a coral cay in the southern Great Barrier Reef, located 75 kilometres northeast of Gladstone, Queensland. North West Island forms part of Capricornia Cays National Park and with an area of 1.05 km², the island is the second largest coral cay in the Great Barrier Reef...

, a significant bird rookery
Rookery
A rookery is a colony of breeding animals, generally birds. A rook is a Northern European and Central Asian member of the crow family, which nest in prominent colonies at the tops of trees. The term is applied to the nesting place of birds, such as crows and rooks, the source of the term...

 and turtle nesting colony. A group of 10 environment NGOs have come together as a coalition called the Protect our Coral Sea campaign, asking the government to create a very large highly protected Coral Sea Marine Park. In November 2011 the Australian government announced that a 989842 square kilometres (382,180 sq mi) protected area was planned and pending approval.

See also

  • Coral Sea Islands
    Coral Sea Islands
    The Coral Sea Islands Territory includes a group of small and mostly uninhabited tropical islands and reefs in the Coral Sea, northeast of Queensland, Australia. The only inhabited island is Willis Island...

  • Torres Strait Islands
    Torres Strait Islands
    The Torres Strait Islands are a group of at least 274 small islands which lie in Torres Strait, the waterway separating far northern continental Australia's Cape York Peninsula and the island of New Guinea but Torres Strait Island known and Recognize as Nyumaria.The islands are mostly part of...

  • Willis Island
  • APNG (cable system)
    APNG (cable system)
    APNG is a submarine telecommunications cable system in the Coral Sea linking Australia and Papua New Guinea.It has landing points in Cairns, Queensland, Australia and Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea....

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.
 
x
OK