Intertidal areas, inshore coastal waters, and reefs provide essential wildlife habitats and accessible recreational spaces, buffer against extreme events, and supply the SEQ seafood market and raw materials for pharmaceutical products and industry. The fishery resources supported by these habitats contribute to a $24 million per annum regional fishing industry.
Seagrasses are habitat for juvenile fish and crustaceans that are the basis of economically valuable commercial, recreational, and indigenous fisheries. Seagrasses are critical habitat for iconic species such as sea turtles, dugongs, and shorebirds. Seagrasses also play a role in protecting shorelines through moderating water movements and energy dispersion. Seagrass meadows store a similar amount of carbon (known as ‘blue carbon’) per unit area as forests. An extent of at least 18,391 hectares of seagrass by 2031 has been set to enable these benefits to be provided to the environment and the economy.
Saltmarsh is nationally listed as a critically endangered ecological community and is found in a narrow band in the upper intertidal reaches of some sections of the SEQ coast. Coastal saltmarsh consists of plants such as sedges, rushes, reeds, grasses, succulent herbs, and low shrubs that can tolerate high soil salinity and occasional inundation with salt water. It provides vital habitat for a multitude of wildlife, including shorebirds and juvenile fish, and crustacea.
Mangroves provide habitat for fish which support the commercial, recreational, and traditional fishing industries. Mangroves also provide habitat for many other plants and animals and the mangrove areas along the coast provide a physical barrier to buffer the community, infrastructure, and other natural assets from the full impacts of extreme events like cyclones and storm surges. Mangroves also act as natural filtration system for absorbing pollutants, including heavy metals and toxic materials. Mangrove forests also absorb carbon dioxide (‘blue carbon’) and play an important role in decreasing global warming. A minimum extent of 22,590 hectares of mangroves has been set to enable these services to be provided into the future.
Coral reefs in SEQ support a mix of tropical, sub-tropical, and temperate species, forming numerous coral communities with diverse and extensive coral growth, including offshore sites like Flinders Reef which is home to 119 recorded coral species. While coral communities within Moreton Bay have less diversity, there are many locations with considerable historical and existing coral cover. Coral reefs with their remarkable biodiversity and beauty attract tourists to Australia.
Headline Target: Seagrass, mangroves and reef (CM1, CM2)
By 2031, the extent and condition of seagrass and mangrove ecosystems (including salt marsh) in bays and estuaries will be greater than or equal to that in 1988 and 2001 respectively. The condition and spatial distribution of soft and hard corals will be maintained at least at 2005 levels.
CM 1 – Seagrass and mangroves
By 2031, the extent and condition of seagrass and mangrove ecosystems (including salt marsh) in bays and estuaries will be greater than or equal to that in 1988 and 2001 respectively.
CM 2 – Coral
By 2031, the condition and spatial distribution of soft and hard corals will be maintained at least at 2005 levels.
CM 4 – Fish stocks
By 2031, wild fishery stock condition will be sustained at sufficiently high levels to support commercial, recreational, and Indigenous cultural fisheries, based on the 1995–2005 benchmark (ten-year rolling average).
CM 5 – Key species
By 2031, the extent and condition of the habitat of bottlenose and Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins, dugongs, sharks, turtles, and wader birds will be equal to or greater than that in 2001 for
CM 6 – Coastal algal blooms
By 2031, the extent and frequency of coastal algal blooms (CAB) will be reduced from the 2002–2005 benchmark (five-year rolling average).
The 2016 NRM Plan Review found:
- There were up to 2,267 hectares of new and recovering seagrass meadows in Moreton Bay (2004-2011).
- A loss of 42 hectares of saltmarsh and mangroves.
- There were concerns regarding loss of mangroves due to sea level rise and also their encroachment into saltmarsh areas, further compromising this critically endangered community.