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Closer look: Marine life in and around the Great Sandy Biosphere

Great Sandy Strait (courtesy EPA)
Written by: Dr Jody Gunn
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Within the Great Sandy Biosphere, between Fraser Island and the mainland of south-east Queensland, Australia, lies the Great Sandy Strait. These coastal sandy habitats support species such as resident and migratory turtles and shorebirds, dugongs, and humpback whales.

A little further south in the Great Sandy Marine Park, the endangered grey nurse shark can be found.

However, pressure from fishing, unsympathetic tourist activity and the degradation of coastal habitats is putting the species that rely on these ecosystems at risk. That’s why Fauna & Flora International (FFI) is working with the Burnett Mary Regional Group to ensure the area and its rich wildlife is well conserved.

Great Sandy marine quick facts

  • The Ramsar-listed Great Sandy Strait is an important site for migratory bird species – it hosts at least 49% of the resident and frequent migratory birds known to Australia on less than one per cent of Australia’s landmass
  • Important site for migratory fauna species, including the Indo-Pacific humpback dolphin, the humpback whale and the flatback, green and loggerhead turtles
  • Threats to the south-east Queensland turtle populations include light pollution, boat strike, feral predators, by-catch, crab pots and climate change. The loggerhead has lost 50-80% of its annual nesting population in the last decade
  • Provides essential habitat for grey nurse sharks
  • Home to the dugong, who rely on the region’s rich seagrass beds for food
  • Coastal mangrove habitats are critical for breeding life stages of fish as well as roosting and food sources, for migratory bird species. They also protect the shoreline from erosion and play an important role in water quality improvement for estuarine, marine and ground water systems
Written by
Dr Jody Gunn

Dr Jody Gunn is the Conservation Partnerships Manager for Fauna & Flora International Australia. She is a wildlife ecologist by trade, having completed her PhD on human elephant conflict in Tanzania, East Africa. Having spent over four years living and working in a protected area in Africa, Jody brings solid technical skills to the Australian team. She has expertise in wildlife research and management, conservation planning and strategy development, and strong community engagement. Jody is using these technical skills in FFI’s partnership with the Burnett Mary Regional Group, to develop innovative conservation strategies, particularly in the newly designated Great Sandy Biosphere.

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With an amazing diversity of species found in the Great Sandy Strait, it is surprising to learn that there is still so much unknown. For example, seagrass beds have not been mapped in over a decade and we don’t fully understand the effects of climate change on many migratory marine species and aquatic habitats.

Dr Jody Gunn

FFI Conservation Partnerships Manager in Australia

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