Natural wonder: Green Island and the reef hold a special place local indigenous people. Photo by the authorReef island with a rainforest

Green Island, off the east coast of Queensland, Australia, reached by a 45-minute ride by a catamaran from the port of Cairns, is the only reef island that has a rainforest growing on it. The Great Barrier Reef stretches 1500 km on the east coast of Australia. Captain James Cook discovered this island in 1770 but the indigenous people have been coming to this island for many years earlier. This island is protected as a national park since 1937 and has been included in the World Heritage List by Unesco. The reef and the waters surrounding the island are protected by a marine national park. This is part of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, one of the seven natural wonders of the world. On Green Island, it is illegal to collect any animals or plants, including shells and corals, feed wildlife, including birds and fish, or litter.

Green Island is a unique experience of a reef and rainforest environment and is thus a nature lover’s paradise. Within the island, there are interpretive panels that explain various aspects of the reef and the rainforests to get a better insight to this unique eco-system.

Green Island and the reef hold a special place for local indigenous (Aboriginal) people, the Guru-Gulu-Gungandji for their traditional and contemporary cultural significance. As such they have an active role in looking after these values for future generations. The island has a diverse butterfly population, common ghost crabs, 28 species of forest birds and 35 species of seabirds, including the pied imperial pigeon which migrates from New Guinea each summer to nest and feed in the forest. It has 120 native plant species.
Coral reefs have been growing along Queensland coast for millions of years but it is only during the last rise in sea level some 8000 years ago that the Great Barrier Reef was formed. Reefs are built by coral polyps, simple jelly-like animals nestled within hard limestone skeletons with help from algae.

The colonies grow up seeking light and generally form at a depth of four to five metres. Corals form on the debris of old dead corals that are “created by nature and crafted by nature”. The recent damage caused to the reef by a stranded ship could take years to repair itself. The coral world is teeming with aquatic flora and fauna with amazing diversity. Green Island is a good example of eco-friendly and responsible tourism.

DBN Murthy

Concerns up and down the food chain
Breton Island, with its hundreds of nesting birds, has been protected by orange booms, as have many other areas of delicate estuaries and wetlands. But biologists are alarmed for wildlife offshore, where the damage from a spill can be invisible but still deadly. And they caution that because of the fluidity between onshore and offshore marine communities, the harm taking place deep at sea will come back to haunt the shallows. “Unfortunately, we’ve had a lot of experience in how oil affects marine life, ecosystems, coastal communities, and fisheries,” said Christopher Mann, with the marine programme, Pew Environment Group.

Leslie Kaufman
NYT News Service