Great Barrier Reef: a natural treasure born in Australia

Australia's Great Barrier Reef has lost half of its coral richness in the last 27 years.

Scientists from the Australian Institute of Marine Science believe that the world's largest coral reef has accelerated the pace of damage, since 2006.

Coal and gas shipments, destructive starfish and climate change are the main threats to this natural treasure. Coal is one of Australia's top export earners and the state of Queensland is the country's largest coal-producer.

"Coral cover on the reef is consistently declining, and without intervention, it will likely fall to 5 to 10 percent within the next 10 years" underline the Australian researchers.

Normally, reefs recover from external attack within 10 to 20 years, but the increasing ocean acidification is not helping reefs rebuild their ecosystem.

Australia's Great Barrier Reef is composed of over 2,900 individual reefs and 900 islands stretching for over 2,600 kilometres (1,600 miles) over an area of approximately 344,400 square kilometres (133,000 square miles).

The reef is located in the Coral Sea, off the coast of Queensland in north-east Australia.