Coastal Plan

Coastal Wetlands of South East Queensland

Why are wetlands important?

Wetlands are a rich and valuable resource – a source of food and water, a place for recreation, education and science and most importantly, a home for the many plants and animals who need wetlands to survive. As well as providing a buffer against coastal erosion, storm surges and flooding, coastal wetlands are a nursery for most Queensland fish and crustaceans (e.g. prawns and crabs). They also provide breeding and roosting sites for migratory birds and local waterbirds. Wetland plants shelter many animals and birds and are vital for the survival of many threatened species. Information on the location and conservation value of existing wetlands is valuable for anyone, particularly those who are involved in coastal activities including management, recreation and living on the coast.

What information is available on South East Queensland’s coastal wetlands?

Queensland’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is currently preparing a Regional Coastal Management Plan for South East Queensland (Regional Coastal Plan) under the Coastal Protection and Management Act 1995 (Coastal Act). The Regional Coastal Plan will outline the principles, policies and requirements for managing the coastal zone and will become the main mechanism for achieving integrated and co-ordinated coastal management. An essential ingredient of the regional coastal planning process is information about the extent and status of coastal resources. To obtain this information the EPA commissioned a project (undertaken between 1998 and 1999) to assess coastal wetlands in the region. The information will now be used to:

  • provide a regional perspective of the location and importance of coastal wetlands;
  • help local government officers make informed decisions relating to coastal wetlands;
  • provide a resource for community and conservation groups, indigenous groups, government agencies and other stakeholders; and
  • provide baseline data for future studies.

‘Coastal Wetlands of South East Queensland Volume 1 Mapping and survey’

The first stage of the project, ‘Coastal Wetlands of South East Queensland Volume 1 Mapping and survey’, involved coastal wetland mapping at 1:25 000 of vegetated coastal wetlands below the 2.5 metre contour (i.e. sites that are subject to tidal influence ) between Maroochy Shire and the Queensland-New South Wales border. This covered the local council areas of Maroochy, Caloundra, Caboolture, Redcliffe, Pine Rivers, Brisbane, Redland, Logan and the Gold Coast and was undertaken by the Queensland Herbarium. From this information, a report and database was produced containing information on the characteristics of coastal wetland vegetation in South East Queensland, including a full species list for each site.

‘Coastal Wetlands of South East Queensland Volume 2 Conservation assessment’

The second part, ‘Coastal Wetlands of South East Queensland Volume 2 Conservation assessment’, involved the development of a methodology for assessing conservation significance of coastal wetlands and the application of this methodology to the coastal wetlands mapped by the Queensland Herbarium. This was undertaken by Chenoweth Environmental Planning and Landscape Architect consultants. This study assessed the regional value of the coastal wetlands. The conservation value of the wetlands was assessed against criteria such as: representativeness, size of wetlands, and diversity of vegetation communities. The assessment results were reviewed by a panel of experts.

What did the studies find?

Over 37, 000 hectares of vegetation were mapped by the Queensland Herbarium comprising:

  • mangrove;
  • samphire;
  • claypan;
  • Sporobolus virginicus grassland associations;
  • Casuarina glauca associations;
  • sedgeland;
  • Melaleuca quinquenervia associations; and
  • heathland.

Vegetation units not included in the scope of this project but which may fall below the 2.5 m contour include:

  • littoral rainforest;
  • dunal headland communities;
  • Remnant riverine communities; and
  • Coastal heathland.

A methodology to assess the conservation significance of coastal wetlands on the basis of transparent and repeatable criteria using available data was developed and applied to the mapped areas. The criteria used in the methodology included size, representativeness, vegetation diversity and boundaries, connectivity, significant species and wader bird habitat. Criteria were each rated on a four-point scale from low to very high. The assessment criteria were subject to an expert panel and Agency review. The study area was broken down to 31 wetland complexes, 206 wetland units, and 45, 000 vegetation communities. Application of the methodology and review by the expert panel resulted in the 206 wetland units being rated for their conservation significance as ‘State significance’, ‘regional significance’, ‘valuable habitat’ and ‘local significance’. Of the 206 wetlands in the study area (covering 36, 800 hectares): · 63 are of ‘State significance’ (82% of the total coastal wetland area); and · 91 are ‘regional significance’ (11.4% of wetland area). The size of the wetland and the size of the mapped vegetation communities within each wetland are major factors in determining significance. These generally correlated with diversity and representativeness. The Queensland Herbarium mapped 11 discrete wetland units, which the conservation assessment study rated highly representative of the communities for the region. Seven of these represent the only occurrence of that community across the study area. The study gave high priority to conserving as much as possible of the remaining areas of Casuarina glauca and Melaleuca quinquenervia communities within areas classified as ‘of concern’ in regional ecosystems. The GIS coverage produced by the study displays the relative conservation significance for wetlands within the study area.

How will the results of the studies be used?

Information from the two studies will be used to:

  • Provide general information about coastal wetlands to local government planners, conservation groups and the general public;
  • Provide information about the size and nature of wetlands in the region, including the types and diversity of the vegetation communities, the presence of significant wetland species and the area’s connectivity to different types of water bodies and ecosystems such as mudflats and sandflats.
  • Derive information such as which vegetation communities are within wetland units, the size of these vegetation communities, and the degree to which these communities represent the overall occurrence of the vegetation across the region;
  • Focus the application of relevant policies and mechanisms of the South East Queensland Regional Coastal Management Plan;
  • Contribute to achieving the objectives of the Strategy for the Conservation and Management of Queensland Wetlands (1999);
  • Guide development assessment decisions;
  • Assist local government and other planning processes by providing protection and management objectives and guidelines for wetlands;
  • Provide Integrated Planning Act (IPA) referral agencies with information on which to support development assessment decisions; and
  • Further previous work such as “Characteristics of Important Wetlands” by providing smaller scale information for the Moreton Bay wetlands and other surrounding wetland areas.

Where is this information available?

The EPA has produced a CD containing the reports:

  • ‘Coastal Wetlands of South East Queensland Volume 1 Mapping and survey’, Queensland Herbarium; and
  • ‘Coastal Wetlands of South East Queensland Volume 2 Conservation assessment’, Chenoweth Environmental Planning and Landscape Architecture. The CD also contains maps and data associated with Volume 2.

To obtain a copy of the CD or for more information on coastal wetlands in South East Queensland, please contact: South East Queensland regional coastal planning team, phone (07) 3225 8796 or email: seqcoastal.wetlands@epa.qld.gov.au