World's Largest Living Structure
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Spanning an area of more than 130,000 square miles, the Great Barrier Reef is actually made up of more than 2,900 reefs and some 900 islands strung together off the coast of Queensland, Australia. It is so large that it can be seen from space with the naked eye. (NASA/Wikimedia Commons)
Environmental groups are outraged by news that the government agency that oversees Australia's Great Barrier Reef approved dumping large amounts of sediment on the reef.
The dump would be necessary for a major coal port expansion, but environmentalists say it would endanger the fragile ecosystem of the reef, according to an Associated Press report. The plan would expand Abbot Point coal port in northern Queensland, taking the dredged mud from the expansion and dumping the 3 million cubic meters of sediment into the marine park.
Dr. Russell Reichelt, chairman of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, told the Guardian the project was approved with strict conditions.
"As a deepwater port that has been in operation for nearly 30 years, Abbot Point is better placed than other ports along the Great Barrier Reef coastline to undertake expansion as the capital and maintenance dredging required will be significantly less than what would be required in other areas," he said.
Environmentalists warn that the dump could kill off delicate corals within the reef, NPR reports. Earlier this month, more than 200 scientists banded together, signing a letter that urged government agencies to reject the dredging plan.
The reef is the largest living structure on Earth and home to thousands of species.
MORE: Creepy Underwater Life
A pharynx nephtis is seen in a lab image taken on July 28, 2008. The specimen was found burrowed beneath the seafloor of the White Sea, located near the northwest coast of Russia. (Flickr/Alexander Semenov)