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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

Part B - Conservation Values Using a Thematic Approach to Identify Areas of Significance

This section of the report considers those aspects of the environment that are best considered in a thematic context. It is effectively looking at a number of attributes, or conservation values, at scales most appropriate to the available information, or in particular environmental or disciplinary contexts. In this part, marine vegetation communities, areas significant for sea and shore bird populations, sandmass areas of the east coast, areas identified as especially rich for particular components, areas of particular significance for butterfly populations, and significant riparian corridors have all been considered. This is not a complete list of possible themes for assessment but rather those considered most appropriate in the context of the Peninsula, and those for which data are available.

8.0 Wetland Areas of Significance

The wetlands of Cape York Peninsula are amongst the largest, richest and most diverse in Australia. Many of the wetlands are also amongst the best examples of their type in Australia, while vast coastal and sub-coastal wetlands of the mid west coast are of national importance to waterbird populations (Driscoll 1994 a,b, Usback & James 1993, Taplin 1993).

Driscoll as part of the NR09 project (1994 a,b) has described the types and locations of wetlands that occur on Cape York Peninsula and has identified wetland complexes of conservation value. Driscoll has broadly delineated areas of significant wetlands on the Peninsula by applying the following criteria:

These criteria relate directly to a number of the AHC's criteria particularly, sub-criteria A3 - places of unusual richness or diversity, B1 - places with rare or uncommon attributes, and D1 - places exhibiting the principles of a class. The areas identified by Driscoll have been considered in the light of regional and nationally significant areas and therefore are recognised as being above threshold in this report.

In his assessment Driscoll relied on a number of CYPLUS NRAP datasets including McFarland Fauna data (NR03) and the Vegetation Mapping of Neldner and Clarkson (NR01). Two limitations of the vegetation mapping, the age of the air photo interpretation, and the proportionate mapping of minor communities within larger polygons, may in this instance have tended to over-estimate some wetlands areas. This is particularly likely in the Port Musgrave-Albatross Bay area delineated.

Driscoll (1994b) identified the following areas as of national significance. The accompanying documentation of conservation values of particular wetlands is obtained from (Driscoll 1994a, b) unless indicated otherwise. Figure 8.1 broadly indicates the significant wetlands identified.

Newcastle Bay - exceptional in a national context for the extent, diversity and structural development of mangroves in association with open saline areas and sedgelands. The area includes the most extensive stands of medium and tall mangrove forests in Queensland and are an important regional fish and prawn habitat (Bucher & Saenger 1989).

Jardine Complex - important for its large and diverse wilderness wetland area, with nationally important representative sedgeland and swamp communities. The biota of the area has strong links with New Guinea (Herbert et al 1994).

Northern Lakes - important for the richness and diversity of its perennial waterbodies.

Northern Sand Ridges - important for the richness and diversity of its perennial waterbodies. Sach Waterhole, a sand dune lake, is the only area known on Cape York Peninsula that supports floating mats of vegetation, which are nationally rare and probably endangered ( Hill & Webb 1982, Herbert et al 1994).

Port Musgrave - Albatross Bay Area - important crocodile and dugong habitat, with a large-number of diverse and well developed freshwater swamps and tidal flats. It is an important regional fish and prawn habitat (Bucher & Saenger 1989).

Central North Sinkholes-- representative paperbark sinkholes which have a rich frog fauna.

Archer River - Holroyd River Coastal - Subcoastal Area - contains extensive and diverse wetlands that are little disturbed and are amongst the best examples of their type including freshwater lakes, broad shallow estuaries, swampy depressions, saline mudflats, overflow swamps and seasonally inundated Melaleuca woodlands. The area supports an extensive waterbird fauna and is considered to be the most important dry season refuge on the Peninsula. It is the most important breeding area for several waterbird species on the Peninsula and is also an important habitat for migratory waders.

Archer Bend Area - an extensive floodplain that contains a diversity of riverine habitats, swamp forests, deep permanent lagoons (both in the channel and on the floodplain) and seasonal swamps (Stanton 1976, Usback & James 1993).

Mitchell - Nassau Area - contains a diverse array of wetland types with a variety of geomorphological origins, fluctuating salinities and water permanence. The wetlands contain major breeding sites of several waterbirds and waders, and are a dry season waterbird refuge (Thurgate 1994).

Shelburne Bay - Cape Grenville - Olive River Area - Important for the high diversity of its wetland types and coastal wetland features and is particularly rich in dune lakes and dune swamps.

Cape Flattery - Cape Bedford Dune Systems - rich in dune lakes and dune swamps.

Lloyd Bay - extensive and diverse estuarine system.

Princess Charlotte Bay - extensive and representative saline flats, and an important shorebird area.

Lakefield Region - contains a high diversity and richness of wetland types, including representative perennial water bodies and ephemeral (or non-permanent) lakes.

The following wetlands have significance within the regional or CYPLUS study area context.

North West Hinterland - moderate diversity of wetland types and good representations of ephemeral waterbodies and sedgelands.

Silver Plains and North - moderate diversity of wetland types and reasonably extensive tidal flats.

Starke Coast - moderate diversity of wetland types, particularly near the mouth of the Starke River.