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Cape York Peninsula Land Use Strategy

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Areas of Conservation Significance on Cape York Peninsula

Cape York Peninsula Land Use Strategy
Abrahams, H., Mulvaney, M., Glasco, D., & Bugg, A.
Office of the Co-ordinator General of Queensland
Australian Heritage Commission, March 1995


Areas of Conservation Significance on Cape York Peninsula

12.0 Sand Dune or Sand Mass Areas of Significance on Eastern Cape York Peninsula

This information is based on the report to the AHC by Dr Errol Stock Griffith University (Stock 1995 in prep).

Stock's work considers the coastal dune masses of the Peninsula systematically along the east coast of the Peninsula. Although primarily considering the geomorphic aspects of the dune areas, some biological aspects have been considered. The sub-criteria addressed in this assessment include A1 (areas important in the course of Australia's natural history), A2 (areas important for on-going biological and geomorphic processes), A3 (areas of particular richness, especially of landscape features), B1 (areas significant as being rare or uncommon) and sub-criterion D1 (areas exhibiting the principle characteristics of a class).

Stock (1995, in prep) has described all the dune fields on the east coast and identified the features important to each. There are three main areas that are clearly of exceptional significance. These are the dune fields of Newcastle Bay and the Jardine Catchment, Olive River - Shelburne Bay and Cape Bedford- Cape Flattery (Figure 12.1).

The detailed significance of each of these areas is included in Part Two of this report and in the Stock report to the AHC (1995, in prep.). As an introduction, the primary significance of these dune systems generally relates to their ability to provide indications of the geomorphological development of tropical dune systems, the importance of the lakes with respect to endemic, restricted and rare fauna and flora, and the associated richness of landforms and biological features of the areas. The ability to contribute to the understanding of the Quaternary development of the tropical regions is of particular note. In addition many of the features, particularly the large sand dunes and the lake systems provide excellent characteristic examples of their type of geomorphic development.

The Newcastle Bay dune field comprises three small dune areas. The vegetation is very dense over much of the dune field. Well-established drainage systems are located close to the rocky headlands. Of particular note is the north of the dunefield, where large parabolic dunes have probably been stopped from spreading further by the infilling of Newcastle Bay by river sediments, thereby creating a less energetic environment and allowing the formation of a sequence of beach ridges in front of the parabolic dunes.

The Olive River - Shelburne Bay dune field occurs predominantly on a sand plain of Quaternary age east of the Mesozoic sandstones that form the McHenry Uplands. The sand plain consists of low undulating terrain dissected by well-developed east-flowing streams.

There are five morphological dune types in the dune field, differentiated by the degree of post-depositional modification including stream erosion, and dune shape. The five dune types include:

The Olive River - Shelburne Bay area is of particular note for its wilderness quality and the extensive nature of the dune areas and the diversity of lakes and dune types in the region.

The Cape Bedford - Cape Flattery dune fields contain a range of constructional and erosional landforms based on the interaction of sand-wind-water-rain-vegetation. Morphological units include: relict and active parabolic dunes and large, elongate parabolic dunes; broad low ridges; intra-dune corridors and gegenwalle; inter-dune sandplains; lakes, swamps and streams. Strand plains, coastal wetlands, estuaries, headlands and bedrock exposures also add to the diversity of this area. The extent of the active parabolic dunes in the Cape Bedford-Cape Flattery area is of world significance.