The Coral Sea Conservation Zone is bounded on the west by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, on the east by the edge of Australia’s Exclusive Economic Zone, on the north by the Torres Strait Protection Zone and on the south by the same southern latitude line as the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. The area comprises 972,000 km2.
The Coral Sea hosts a high diversity of habitats, ecosystems and species. Only a small portion of this area has been studied, but knowledge gained to date indicates that there are important habitats, migration corridors and ecological processes that sustain unique biological communities. This review draws together the available scientific research to provide a comprehensive description of the physical and biological characteristics of the Coral Sea.
The seabed of the Coral Sea is characterised by a vast plain over 4,000 m deep to the northeast, several plateaux and slopes etched by undersea canyons and separated by deep ocean trenches, and, to the south, the northern end of a chain of undersea volcanoes. Eighteen coral reef systems, many with multiple small reefs, emerge from structural high points on the plateaux or from the tops of the volcanoes. Forty-nine small islands and cays form the only terrestrial habitats.