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The Ningaloo Coast, Ningaloo Rd, Ningaloo, WA, Australia

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List National Heritage List
Class Natural
Legal Status Listed place (06/01/2010)
Place ID 105881
Place File No 5/14/192/0013
Summary Statement of Significance
 
Natural Values
The integration of the Ningaloo Reef and Exmouth Peninsula karst system as a cohesive limestone structure is at the heart of the natural heritage significance of the Ningaloo Coast. The modern Ningaloo Reef, Exmouth Peninsula karst, and the wave-cut terraces, limestone plains, Pleistocene reef sediments of Exmouth Peninsula and associated marine, terrestrial and subterranean ecosystems, including the Muiron Islands, demonstrate a geological, hydrological and ecological unity which harmonises the region's present ecosystem functions with its evolutionary history as a time-series of coral reefs and an evolving karst system.
 
The western half of the Australian continent is characterized by extensive areas of low relief, tectonic stability and a very long history of landscape evolution under essentially stable conditions. Exmouth Peninsula is a major exception, and is the only Tertiary orogenic (resulting from uplift and warping) karst in Australia. Most of the geological and geomorphological features of Exmouth Peninsula reflect a history of uplift and warping that commenced in the late Tertiary (middle Miocene to late Pliocene) and which has continued to the present. As a result, the karst systems of Cape Range extend over a large vertical range (at least 300 metres), which is not reflected anywhere else in Australia. Cape Range houses a high concentration of karst features and subterranean ecosystems of global importance, unparalleled in Australia.
 
The presence of active karst solution as a result of seawater incursion is rare in Australia, and Ningaloo Coast is the best example in Australia of this globally significant karst solution process.
 
The history of coral reefs during the last 26 million years is chronicled in the limestone parapets and wave-cut terraces of Cape Range, which record previous high water levels. Demonstrating late Quaternary deformation at a passive continental margin, the uplifted Neogene wave-cut terraces and fossil reefs which fringe Exmouth Peninsula and the submerged fossil reef terraces which form the substrate of the modern reef, in immediate juxtaposition with the undeformed modern Ningaloo Reef, contribute to an understanding of the mechanisms which led to the modern character of the west coast of Australia.
 
The subterranean faunas and rangeland communities of Cape Range peninsula illustrate the intimate ties between ecology and geology more vividly than any other place in Australia. The aquatic cave fauna has evolved in isolation since the break-up of the supercontinent Gondwana and the opening of the ancient Tethys Sea from more than 180 million years ago. Terrestrial fauna in the karst system are most closely related to rainforest fauna in north-eastern Australia, showing how Australia's climate has dried over the last 25 million years as the continent drifted slowly north. Rangeland communities provide refuge for flora and vertebrate fauna at the limits of their ranges, and a number of regional endemic species showing a marked disjunct distribution, contributing to the story of biogeographic change over time.
 
The taxonomic composition of the anchialine (aquatic) community of Bundera Sinkhole is unique in the southern hemisphere and Indo-West Pacific region. There are no directly comparable sites in Australia. Anchialine communities characterised by the presence of remipede crustaceans are limited to Exmouth Peninsula, the volcanic anchialine setting of Lanzarote in the Canary Islands, and some sites in the Caribbean and Mediterranean Seas, Cuba and Mexico. Bundera Sinkhole is outstanding for its unique anchialine community, reflecting its unusual hydrology, geological history, and stable environment over thousands of millennia.
 
Indigenous Values
Records of early human occupation have been drowned elsewhere in Australia, with the post-glacial return of the sea over the broad coastal areas that were exposed during the last glacial maximum around 25,000 years ago. Exmouth Peninsula's proximity to the continental shelf during the harsh climatic conditions of the last ice age, when sea levels were lower, means that the place was never far from marine resources. The steep topography of the Cape Range has protected Pleistocene occupation sites from the destructive effects of rising sea levels and the non-acidic environment of the limestone geology has preserved evidence of human occupation.
 
Archaeological deposits in the rock shelters on Cape Range show Aboriginal people had a comprehensive and sophisticated knowledge of edible and non-edible marine resources between 35,000 and 17,000 years ago. The rock shelters of Exmouth peninsula are outstanding because they provide the best evidence in Australia for the use of marine resources during the Pleistocene, including their uses as food and for personal adornment.
 
The evidence for standardisation in size and manufacture of the shell beads found at Mandu Mandu Creek rock shelter, coupled with the fact they provide the earliest unequivocal evidence for the creation of personal ornaments in Australia, demonstrates a high degree of creative and technical achievement.
 
Official Values
Criterion A Events, Processes
Natural Values
 
Demonstrating late Quaternary deformation at a passive continental margin, the uplifted Neogene wave-cut terraces and fossil reefs which fringe Exmouth Peninsula and the submerged fossil reef terraces which form the substrate of the modern reef, in immediate juxtaposition with the undeformed modern Ningaloo Reef, and late Pleistocene Tantabiddi terrace, have outstanding heritage value to the nation under criterion (a) for their contribution to understanding mechanisms which led to the modern character of the west coast of Australia (van de Graaff et al. 1976; Veeh et al. 1979; Stirling et al. 1998).
 
The story of Australia during the Neogene period (beginning about 25 million years ago) is a story of increasing post-Gondwanan isolation and the expansion of aridity. The subterranean faunas and rangeland communities of Exmouth Peninsula exemplify both these evolutionary drivers and accentuate the intimate ties between ecology and geological history more vividly than any other place in Australia. Demonstrating speciation and adaptation since the break up of the supercontinent Gondwana and the opening of the ancient Tethys sea more than 250 million years ago, the expansion of aridity in Australia and continued biogeographic isolation during the Quaternary (the last 2.6 million years), the subterranean and terrestrial ecosystems of Exmouth Peninsula help translate a complicated biogeographical story. These communities have outstanding heritage value to the nation under criterion (a) for their importance in demonstrating the pattern of Australia's natural history (Humphreys and Collis 1990; Kendrick 1993; Jaume et al. 2001; Russell 2004; Humphreys 2006; Spate 2006).
 
Indigenous Values
 
Elsewhere in Australia records of early human occupation have been drowned with the post-glacial return of the sea over the broad coastal areas exposed during the last glacial maximum. Exmouth Peninsula's proximity to the continental shelf during the harsh climatic conditions of the last ice age, when sea levels were lower, means that Cape Range was never far from marine resources (Morse 1993c).
 
Archaeological deposits in the rock shelters on Cape Range show Aboriginal people had a comprehensive and sophisticated knowledge of edible and non-edible marine resources between 35,000 and 17,000 years BP (Morse 1993a; Przywolnik, 2005). The rock shelters of Exmouth peninsula have outstanding heritage value to the nation under criterion (a) because they provide the best evidence in Australia for the use of marine resources during the Pleistocene including their uses as food and for personal adornment.
 
Criterion B Rarity
Natural Values
 
Anchialine communities characterised by the presence of remipede crustaceans are internationally rare, limited to Bundera Sinkhole on the Ningaloo Coast, the volcanic anchialine setting of Lanzarote in the Canary Islands, and some sites in the Caribbean and Mediterranean Seas, Cuba and Mexico (Gillieson, Humphreys and Spate 2006). The taxonomic composition of the anchialine community of Bundera Sinkhole, while characteristic of remipede communities, is unique in the southern hemisphere and Indo-West Pacific. Bundera Sinkhole is outstanding for its unique anchialine community, reflecting its unusual hydrology, geological history, and stable environment over thousands of millennia.
 
The presence of active karst solution as a result of seawater incursion is rare in Australia. The Ningaloo Coast is one of the best examples in Australia of this globally significant process (Gillieson, Humphreys and Spate 2006). As the only example in Australia of a Tertiary orogenic karst and a rare example of active marine karst solution, the Ningaloo Coast contains rare aspects of Australia's natural history.
 
Criterion C Research
Natural values
 
Anchialine and groundwater ecosystems are of considerable scientific interest globally, yielding important information about the evolution of life on earth. The Exmouth Peninsula subterranean estuary has outstanding heritage value to the nation for supporting the most diverse and the richest anchialine and groundwater fauna in Australia, among the richest in the world. These ecosystems and the troglobites and stygofauna they support have the potential to yield information about biogeography, evolution and changing climates in Australia over hundreds of millions of years, from the late Palaeozoic to the present (AHDB 2002; Humphreys and Danielopol 2005; Humphreys 2006; Spate 2006).
 
Indigenous Values
 
Research on the freshwater subterranean fauna of the Ningaloo Coast (Humphreys and Adams 1991; Poore and Humphreys 1992) suggests that even in times of greater aridity than the present day semi-desert terrestrial environment, freshwater may have been widely available across the emergent coastal plain bordering Cape Range. The steep topography of Cape Range has protected Pleistocene occupation sites from the destructive effects of rising sea levels; while the alkaline environment of the limestone geology has acted to preserve archaeological evidence of human occupation.
 
Given that only a handful of the caves and rock shelters of the Exmouth Peninsula region has been investigated (O'Connor, 2007) the place has outstanding heritage value to the nation under criterion (c) because of its potential to provide further insights into marine resource use by Aboriginal people in the Pleistocene and the less well understood last glacial maximum.
 
Criterion D Principal characteristics of a class of places
Natural Values
 
Biologically unique in the southern hemisphere and the Indo-Pacific region, characteristic of the remipede crustacean-type of anchialine community, the Ningaloo Coast has outstanding heritage value to the nation under criterion (d) for demonstrating the principal characteristics of a Tertiary karst environment in Australia, including a high concentration of karst features and subterranean ecosystems of global importance, unparalleled in Australia (Humphreys 2006; Spate 2006).
 
The integration of the Ningaloo Reef and Exmouth Peninsula karst system as a cohesive limestone structure is at the heart of the natural heritage significance of the Ningaloo Coast. The modern Ningaloo Reef, Exmouth Peninsula karst, and the wave-cut terraces, limestone plains, Pleistocene reef sediments of Exmouth Peninsula and associated marine, terrestrial and subterranean ecosystems, including the Muiron Islands, have outstanding heritage value to the nation under criterion (d) for demonstrating a geological, hydrological and ecological unity which harmonises the region's present ecosystem functions with its evolutionary history as a time-series of coral reefs and an evolving karst system (Carter 1987; Allen 1993; Wyrwoll et al. 1993; Hamilton-Smith et al. 1998; EPA 1999; Humphreys 2006; Spate 2006).
 
Criterion F Creative or technical achievement
Indigenous Values
 
The evidence for standardisation in size and manufacture of the shell beads found at Mandu Mandu Creek rock shelter, coupled with the fact they provide the earliest unequivocal evidence for the creation of personal ornaments in Australia, demonstrates a high degree of creative and technical achievement.  On this basis, Exmouth Peninsula and the shell beads that were found in association with the place have outstanding heritage value to the nation under criterion (f).
 
Description
On the western hip of Australia, the 83,800 km2 Carnarvon bioregion in Western Australia's Gascoyne and Pilbara regions follows the Western Australian coast north from Denham to Onslow. Most of its permanent human population lives in the towns of Carnarvon in the south and Exmouth 300 kilometres to the north. Pastoralism is the prevailing land use. Tourism is increasingly important on the coast, and mineral and petroleum exploration and extraction have contributed to regional and state economies since at least the 1950s. An arid to semi-arid climate and low, gently undulating country with open drainage predominate while the region's principal geology includes Miocene to Quaternary age alluvial, aeolian and marine sediments overlying Cretaceous limestone. Rugged Tertiary limestone ranges, extensive red Pleistocene dune fields, mud flats and playa lakes define the topography and ephemeral rivers wind through the region, flowing only after rare heavy rainfall (Kendrick and Mau 2002; DEWHA 2007a). The north of the bioregion presents a mosaic of interdependent ecosystems. The integrated limestone structure of Ningaloo Reef and Exmouth Peninsula contrasts biologically, structurally and topographically with the giant salina of Lake Macleod, whose geological history as an embayment of the Indian Ocean is the source of its interesting hydrology. The congeneric anticlines of Cape, Rough and Giralia Ranges present the highest relief in the region, their incised gorges dramatically overshadowing the sunkland bordering Exmouth Gulf and its associated islands, mud flats, mangal and inundated dunes.
 
The Ningaloo Coast National Heritage Place (Ningaloo Coast) is approximately 8,000 km2, including a marine area of approximately 5500 km2, incorporating the Ningaloo Marine Park (Commonwealth and state waters) and the state-managed Muiron Islands Marine Management Area. The terrestrial extent of the Ningaloo Coast encompasses the adjoining Exmouth Peninsula (including Cape Range, its fringing wave-cut terraces, coastal plain, beach dunes, Pleistocene dune fields, karst and subterranean estuary), Bundegi and Jurabi Coastal Parks (managed jointly by the Exmouth Shire Council and the Western Australian Department of Environment and Conservation), the Commonwealth Heritage listed Learmonth Air Weapons Range Facility on the west of Exmouth Peninsula, the 2015 exclusion area of Exmouth Gulf pastoral lease, part of the south west corner of Exmouth Gulf Station, and the 2015 coastal exclusion areas from the Ningaloo, Cardabia, Warroora, Gnaraloo and Quobba pastoral leases. Tenure includes government-owned land and conservation reserves (including Department of Defence land and Commonwealth and state marine and terrestrial protected areas), Commonwealth Heritage listed places, areas subject to Native Title claims, exploration and pastoral leases, and freehold land. A Ramsar nomination is currently in preparation for Bundera Sinkhole (located in the buffer area of the Learmonth Air Weapons Range) and its associated karst areas (WAPC 2004). The listed area excludes the towns of Coral Bay in the south and Exmouth, which overlooks the gulf at the north-eastern end of the peninsula, most of the Commonwealth Heritage listed Harold E Holt Naval Communications Station and the Department of Defence-owned Learmonth Air Base on the western shore of Exmouth Gulf. The Western Australian Government has begun de-gazettal of the Mauds Landing town site preliminary to reserving the area for conservation and recreation (WAPC 2004).
 
Five pastoral leases, Ningaloo, Cardabia, Warroora, Gnaraloo and Quobba Stations, share boundaries with the Ningaloo Marine Park. In 2015, ownership of a roughly two kilometre coastal strip formerly included within these leases will revert to the state government. The Environmental Protection Authority identified these exclusions between 1975 and 1984 along with a number of other areas of leasehold across Western Australia with high conservation value (WHCCC 2004; DOIR 2007). The Western Australian Government recently purchased a 50 per cent share of the Ningaloo Station lease for inclusion in the conservation estate. Leasehold of Cardabia Station is vested in the Baiyangu Aboriginal Corporation, which has suspended its Native Title rights over the two kilometre coastal strip in return for tourism concessions (ATNS 2007; WAPC 2004).
 
The whole of the Ningaloo Marine Park (Commonwealth and state waters) and surrounding waters, including Exmouth Gulf, is subject to a native title claim registered with the National Native Title Tribunal. The claim also includes the entire Exmouth Peninsula and extensive areas inland, in total some 338,000 km2. However, within the boundaries of the claim, several classes of exclusion exist, relating to existing leases and extinguishing acts that apply to terrestrial areas (LeProvost et al. 2000).
 
Natural environment
The Ningaloo Coast straddles the northern and southern Carnarvon basins. The heavily dissected Cape Range anticline dominates the terrestrial geology in the north of the area. North east of Exmouth Peninsula, the Muiron Islands continue the anticline which shapes Cape Range (Allen 1993). Widespread red aeolian sand dune fields support sparse eucalypt and shrubby acacia steppe over spinifex grassland, and mantle the limestone bedrock at the northern end of Exmouth Peninsula. Coastal sand plains and dunes, tidal mud and sand flats, saline alluvial plains and playas support samphire and mangroves (Kendrick and Mau 2002; Russell 2004).
 
The Ningaloo Coast experiences an arid, semi-desert to subtropical climate, with variable summer and winter rainfall. Cyclonic activity along the Western Australian coast can be significant and may affect the coast and hinterland areas annually. Annual evaporation rates in the region of about 2,700 millimetres far exceed its annual rainfall, of between 200 to 300 millimetres along the coast. In an average year, maximum rain will fall in May and minimum rain, of less than two millimetres, will fall in the spring months. Mean summer maxima in Exmouth town range from 36 to 38 degrees Celsius; mean summer minima range between 21 and 25 degrees Celsius. Over the winter months, mean maximum temperature is about 25 degrees Celsius, and mean minimum temperatures range from 11 to 13 degrees Celsius (Kendrick and Mau 2002; CALM 2005a; CALM 2005b; BoM 2007a). 
 
South-east trade winds dominate most of the year. Cyclonic winds may be severe, exceeding speeds of 150 kilometres per hour. In 1999 Tropical Cyclone Vance, one of the strongest cyclones to affect mainland Australia since records began, crossed the Pilbara coast near Exmouth, causing damage to infrastructure, serious coastal erosion and sedimentation in Exmouth Gulf, disruption to ecosystems, power and water supplies and cuts to the main rail and road links to the eastern states (BoM 2007b).
 
Extremely low average annual rainfall and lack of run-off have contributed to Ningaloo Reef's proximity to the mainland, together with Exmouth Peninsula's position relative to the edge of the continental shelf: off the peninsula the shelf is very narrow; between North West Cape and Coral Bay it is only around ten kilometres wide. The Leeuwin Current is one of the greatest biogeographic influences on Western Australia's marine environments, bringing a flow of tropical water down the coast. The current is strongest and closest to the coast during autumn and winter, in the absence of opposing southerly winds and the associated nearshore northward flowing Cape and Ningaloo currents, which occur during late spring and summer. The warmth of the Leeuwin Current supports tropical species at latitudes where these species are not typically found. The west coasts of the other continents lack a comparable warm annual current, and consequently the growth of modern coral reefs at high latitudes is reduced compared to Australia. The Indo-West Pacific region is the centre of diversity for tropical coral reefs. Ningaloo Reef is one of a number of Western Australian reefs of moderate diversity, dependent on the Leeuwin Current and each other for survival and dispersal (CALM 2005a). 
 
From the shelf and slope communities and coral reefs of the Ningaloo Marine Park to the aquifers of the Exmouth Peninsula karst, from the mangrove and estuarine habitat of Yardie Creek and Mangrove Bay to the rugged gorges and wave-cut limestone escarpments and platforms of Cape Range, the Ningaloo Coast is characterised by a number of biologically and structurally interconnected landforms and seascapes. Coastal dunes extend west of Lake Macleod along the shore, north to Exmouth Gulf. Soils in the region range from deep calcareous sands along the coast to siliceous sands of varying depth to the east. Longitudinal dunes, last active during the Pleistocene epoch, occur across the area, over limestone or calcrete, with younger deposits closest to the coast. Cliffs, wavecut platforms, narrow beaches and mobile sand drifts also feature in the coastal dune landscape. The Cape Range anticline outcrops in the north and sustains Acacia and Triodia shrubland (Kendrick and Mau 2002; Russell 2004). Its geological history includes marine sedimentation, and subsequent uplift and exposure of Tertiary strata. Reactivation of faults since the Miocene folded the range into its modern shape (Iasky and Glikson 2005, WAPC 2004).
 
Ningaloo Marine Park encompasses a series of interconnected habitats, from the continental shelf and slope communities of the Commonwealth waters to the reef and onshore ecosystems of Ningaloo Reef. Stretching from Red Bluff north, around North West Cape to Bundegi Reef in Exmouth Gulf, and extending up to 25 kilometres offshore, the park is 5076 km2 including Commonwealth (2436 km2) and state waters (2640 km2) (EA 2002a; DEWHA 2007a). The reef is a discontinuous barrier over approximately 260 kilometres south to north along the coast of Western Australia, enclosing a lagoon which varies in width from 200 metres to about seven kilometres. In total, the reef extends over 300 kilometres from Bundegi Reef, north east encircling the Muiron Islands, south west to Jurabi Point and along the coast to Red Bluff. On average the reef flat is several hundred metres wide and becomes partly exposed at spring low tide (AHDB 2002; AHDB 2004). North of Jurabi Point at the extreme northern end of the park, the barrier reef is discontinuous and eventually disappears, to reappear in the waters of the Muiron Islands. The southern end of the reef is closer to shore and less continuous. It becomes a shoreline fringing reef at Red Bluff. Most of Ningaloo Reef lies within the tropical belt of the Indo-Pacific Faunal Region. The Tropic of Capricorn crosses the southern end of the park (CALM 2005a).
 
The park protects diverse ecosystems. The state waters include shoreline communities, lagoon, fore reef, reef flat and the waters extending three nautical miles out to sea from the outer edge of the reef. Important habitats of the Commonwealth waters include the waters and seabed of the continental shelf and slope which extend three to nine nautical miles seaward from the boundary of the state waters. The Commonwealth waters protect sponge gardens, deepwater corals, and provide habitat for cetaceans, whale sharks (Rhincodon typus), billfish, tuna and marine reptiles. The deeper waters display a diversity of epibenthic decapod crustacea, with more species recorded than on any other continental shelf.
 
A dugong (Dugong dugon) community of up to a thousand animals feeds in the waters of the lagoon, eating the seagrass beds in Norwegian Bay and the lagoon north of Bruboodjoo Point. Seven cetacean species regularly visit the park: the humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae), minke whale (Balaenoptera acutorostrata), fin whale (B. physalis), blue whale (B. musculus), bottle-nosed dolphin (Tursiops truncatus), Indo-Pacific humpback dolphin (Sousa chinensis) and killer whale (Orcinus orca). The southern right whale (Eubalaena australis) may still be present, but it is unreported since whaling ceased. Humpback whales move through the park from June to October on their annual migration to and from breeding grounds further north. Outside the park, Exmouth Gulf provides an important humpback nursery area as well as habitat for several hundred dugongs. Four species of turtle live in the waters of the park, some of which breed outside the park, on the beaches of Exmouth Peninsula and the Muiron Islands (CALM 2005a).
 
Whale sharks congregate in numbers around the reef and in the deeper Commonwealth waters in April and May during the mass spawning of coral. This giant fish, the world's largest at up to 18 metres, is beautifully patterned with pale lines and spots on a dark background. They are increasingly a focus for ecotourism around the world, and swimming with whale sharks is regarded as the signature experience of Ningaloo. The activity is compared to 'swimming with the stars'. Marine biologist Brad Norman has described individual whale sharks as a starfield underwater: 'As you swim above, the shark's body seems to disappear and its white spots light up like stars in the night sky. It's an awe-inspiring sight'. Others speak in wonder of the experience as 'spiritual' (Underwater Australasia 2007).
 
The Muiron Islands group (including North Muiron, South Muiron and Sunday Island) are structurally contiguous with the Cape Range anticline. The islands are sandy with a limestone base; their vegetation is characteristically coastal, including spinifex and acacia species. Flora is similar to Exmouth Peninsula, and limited plant collections reveal several species unknown on the mainland. South Muiron is an important loggerhead (Caretta caretta) and green (Chelonia mydas) turtle nesting place. Hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricata bissa) and the occasional flatback (Natator depressus) turtles have been recorded on the beaches. Reefs surrounding the islands are diverse and display good coral cover (CALM 1999; Kendrick and Mau 2002).
 
Stretching from Vlamingh Head at the northern tip of peninsula south to Point Cloates, Cape Range dominates the terrestrial landscape of the peninsula, forming a spine approximately 70 kilometres long, fringed by wave cut platforms and coastal plain on its eastern and western flanks. Rising abruptly from sea level to over 300 metres, the range is a heavily dissected, asymmetric limestone anticline that has eroded over millions of years into plateaux, hills, ridges, gorges and steep stony slopes. The eastern slope of the range features canyons up to 120 metres deep, and the western side is cut by four terraces of Plio-Pleistocene age, from six to about 60 metres above sea level. Eroded into former beaches and near-shore reef sediments, the terraces record past sea levels. Narrow creek beds on the flanks of the range fall from cliffs and scree slopes, flowing only rarely after heavy rain. The crest of the range undulates gently. There is external drainage down the deeply dissected flanks of the range and centripetal drainage towards the large sinkholes. South of Learmonth Air Weapons Range, Cape Range grades into undulating limestone and sand plain. The outlets of the larger creeks have developed spectacular alluvial fans. The coastal plain is narrow in comparison to the range at one to five kilometres wide. Its west side consists of the lowest and youngest of the wave-cut platforms, the Tantabiddi terrace (Le Provost et al. 2000; AHDB 2002; AHDB 2004). At Mangrove Bay there is a small, well-developed mangal. It is flushed by tidal action through one channel. Mangroves occur in other creek mouths which are normally barred, particularly at Yardie Creek, the only permanent freshwater creek along the Ningaloo Coast (AHDB 2002; AHDB 2004).
 
The Carnarvon bioregion is a transition zone between tropical and temperate marine and terrestrial species. This has led to a diverse flora colonising the peninsula. Up to 630 taxa of vascular plants have been recorded. Vertebrate fauna of the peninsula include 30 mammal, 84 reptile, five amphibian and around 200 bird species. This relatively rich fauna is supported by a range of available habitats, from mangrove to inter-tidal marine, sand ridge to alluvial plain, dune field to rocky limestone range (Kendrick 1993; Kendrick and Mau 2002; AHDB 2002).
 
The middle Miocene (24-25 million years) Cape Range Group provides the main carbonate deposits of Exmouth Peninsula, consisting of three limestone units deposited in different marine environments. The oldest of the group, the Mandu Limestone, is overlain by the Tulki Limestone which makes up the bulk of Cape Range. The youngest of the group, the Trealla Limestone, caps the northern and western parts of the range. Offshore, carbonate deposition continues in Ningaloo Reef, which maintains a close geomorphic and hydrologic relationship with the terrestrial and subterranean parts of Exmouth Peninsula (Gillieson, Humphreys and Spate 2006).
 
A network of hidden caves and tunnels underlies the plateaux, canyons and coastal plain of Exmouth Peninsula. The high relief of Cape Range and lower sea levels in the past have encouraged significant karst development. The hard Miocene Tulki limestone is the main cavernous limestone but younger Pleistocene to Holocene age limestones also display karst erosion. There are 826 karst features including 535 caves, 180 dolines (large, characteristically funnel-shaped depressions or basins in karst limestone), and 11 miscellaneous features recorded from Exmouth Peninsula. Extensive karren (furrows or fissures eroded into karst limestone), gorges, dolines and springs pit the surface of the range and fringing plains. Tertiary karst like the Exmouth Peninsula system, while relatively common internationally, is almost unknown in Australia (Gillieson, Humphreys and 2006).
 
Perforated by a network of subterranean waterways, the Exmouth Peninsula system shelters a unique collection of cave-dwelling animals (Gillieson, Humphreys and Spate 2006; DEC 2008a). Stygofaunal communities, epitomised by the Bundera Sinkhole remipede community (remipedes are eyeless, unpigmented, free-swimming, subterranean, marine crustaceans, varying in size from 9-45 millimetres), consist of specialist subterranean aquatic species. Troglobitic communities are characteristically terrestrial or amphibious (Hamilton-Smith et al. 1998).
 
The hydrology of the karst system is poorly understood. Rainfall on the range is believed to drain through the limestone to the boundary of the Tulki limestone with the younger Mandu limestone, sometimes following large open conduits occurring near a coastal freshwater lens, and then discharging below sea level. A Ghyben-Herzberg groundwater system, in which a layer of freshwater floats on saltwater, underlies the peninsula. Because of the lack of surface flow in the range and on the coastal plain (apart from Yardie Creek), the groundwater discharges to the ocean, except when cyclones bring heavy rainfalls causing normally dry creeks to flow (Gillieson, Humphreys and Spate 2006).
 
Rare in Australia, coastal anchialine systems are typically formed in porous limestone or volcanic rock, flooded with seawater. Limestone anchialine pools or cenotes like Bundera Sinkhole are land-locked at the surface, with subterranean connections to the ocean via coastal aquifers. Anchialine habitats like those of Exmouth Peninsula are remarkable for their complex, chemically and thermally stratified hydrology and very diverse but predictable faunal communities, especially those restricted to the oligoxic (low oxygen) reaches of the water column, where most genera represent biogeographic and/or phylogenetic relicts. Crustaceans form the richest group of stygofaunal invertebrates, with the greatest biogeographic significance.
 
Anchialine crustacean communities characteristically include many different crustacean groups. Regardless of distance and isolation, a new anchialine locality is likely to contain a high proportion of taxa congeneric with those known from other anchialine communities around the world (Danielopol et al. 2000; Jaume et al. 2001). Bundera Sinkhole, on the coastal plain south of Yardie Creek, is the only known remipede (Lasionectes exleyi) community in the southern hemisphere or the Indo-west Pacific region, and one of only seven localities in the world. The others are in Mexico, Cuba, the north Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean and Mediterranean Seas. Bundera Sinkhole contains a rich and diverse stygobiont fauna, including amphipods, copepods and ostracods, which are crustacean species typically accompanying remipedes. The adjacent aquifer contains other species which may also live in the sinkhole; atyid shrimp, diverse amphipods, members of the Thermosbaenacea (a blind crustacean order), the blind eel Ophisternon, which is endemic to Exmouth Peninsula, and the blind gudgeon, Milyeringa veritas, widespread in the Exmouth Peninsula karst system, but almost unknown outside the peninsula. Distinct communities have evolved to depend on the stratification of the water table, suggesting its stability over millennia. The peninsula is also celebrated for its unique and diverse amphibious and terrestrial subterranean troglobite communities, which include several threatened species and a greater number of undescribed species (Kendrick and Mau 2002).
 
Indigenous environment
The Ningaloo Coast-Exmouth Gulf region represents the westernmost extent of the semi arid/arid zone of Western Australia, and is an extremely dry and harsh environment. Exmouth Peninsula is of exceptional heritage interest as the steep topography and limestone geology of the region provides a unique environment in which evidence of human occupation has been well preserved. The place is also the nearest point on the continent to the edge of the continental shelf so that even during the height of the last glacial maximum, the coast was never more than ten to twelve kilometres away (Morse 1993a). The limestone rock shelters and caves contain evidence of past Indigenous occupation including rock art. Open shell middens also occur in the coastal sand dunes of the peninsula.
 
Within the area there are over 140 Aboriginal sites registered on the WA Department of Indigenous Affairs (DIA) Register of Aboriginal Sites. These range from artefact scatters, middens, engravings, ceremonial and mythological areas, grinding patches and grooves, burial sites, and man made structures. Registered sites are protected under the Western Australian Aboriginal Heritage Act 1972.
History
Geological history
Australia's western margin is 'one of the classic passive continental margins in the world' (Kendrick et al. 1991). It originated as a rifted margin, opening progressively from north to south during the successive break-up of the supercontinents Pangaea and Gondwana from about 160 to 50 million years ago, as the Indian Ocean opened, the Indian and Australian plates separated and the former moved north. A number of sedimentary basins formed with the rift, including the Carnarvon basin. The thousands of metres of sedimentary rocks in the basin date from the Paleozoic (beginning 545 million years ago) to the Holocene (present day) (EA 2002a; Veevers 2006).
 
Uplift along the Western Australian coast has occurred intermittently since the late Cretaceous, producing the anticlinal ranges of the Ningaloo Coast and Exmouth Gulf region. Much of the area that now comprises Western Australia was covered by large shallow epeiric (continental) seas during the Cretaceous, and the rocks that have produced the surface expression of the region are predominantly calcareous, made from the silt and mud and the bodies of billions of marine organisms deposited on the sea bottom over thousands of millennia.
 
Cape Range itself and its extension in the Muiron Islands are composed of mostly calcareous sedimentary rocks deposited in shallow seas since the Pliocene less than six million years ago, overlain by and interbedded with the alluvial, littoral and shallow marine sediments of the bordering coastal plain as sea levels rose and fell. Cape Range probably emerged as an island during the Pliocene after which karstification might have extended rapidly down in karst-prone sediments, proceeding laterally as the range emerged from the sea. During sea level lowstands, as at glacial maxima during the Pleistocene, karstification continued into areas that are now offshore, accompanied by incision of the modern drainage (Allen 1993).
 
During the glacial-interglacial cycles of the Quaternary, Australian landscapes were increasingly subject to cold aridity or 'dust ages' rather than ice ages, as the polar ice sheets, high-altitude tropical glaciers, and mountain and high-latitude glaciers of Europe, Asia and North America expanded. Australia drifted northward into drier climates and dune fields activated across the expanding arid and semi-arid zones, preserving in sediment a record of the prevailing winds of the time. During interglacial periods, sea level rose as the polar ice caps melted, and the arid zone contracted (Bowler 1978; Bowler 1982a). The last phase of glacial aridity, commonly known as the last glacial maximum, began about 25,000 years before present (BP) (Morse 1996). This was a time of intense aridity and colder conditions which peaked between 19,000-17,000 years BP (Morse 1996; O'Connor and Veth 2006). The present interglacial – the Holocene epoch – began around 12,000 years BP.
 
The last interglacial (lasting from about 135,000-85,000 years ago) featured a period of high water and reef expansion between about 135,000-125,000 years ago, represented at Exmouth Peninsula in the Tantabiddi terrace. At times during the last interglacial, Lake Macleod formed an embayment of the Indian ocean, and might have connected via a channel to Exmouth Gulf, isolating Cape Range as an island once more. The modern Dirk Hartog Island, in the Shark Bay World Heritage Area, is a possible analogue for Exmouth Peninsula at times of higher sea level during the Pleistocene. At the last glacial maximum, the now inundated red Pleistocene dune fields of Exmouth Gulf extended into a low coastal plain which began to be submerged beneath the rising waters of the gulf as the polar ice caps melted during the Holocene.
 
The western flank of Cape Range is fringed by a striking series of well-defined wave-cut terraces. From 60 metres at their highest point, to around six metres above sea level at their lowest, these terraces record uplift and sea level change from the Pliocene to the last interglacial, and provide a series of reefs and high water stands through time, culminating in the living Ningaloo Reef. Ningaloo Reef dominates the coastal geomorphology in the west of the region. There is currently little data on the growth history of the reef. It was formed from the late Pleistocene to early Holocene, between 60-10,000 years ago (Wyrwoll et al. 1993). The lowest of the terrestrial terraces (the Tantabiddi terrace) represents a previous high water mark and reef-building episode. Dates for the higher, older terraces remain inconclusive. Each of these reefs, in chronological succession, contains progressively fewer coral genera in common with the modern reef (Veeh et al. 1979; Wyrwoll 1993).
 
Indigenous history
General Archaeology
A rich assemblage of materials preserved in the limestone rock shelters of Exmouth Peninsula show that Indigenous people had a comprehensive and sophisticated knowledge of marine resources between 35,000 and 17,000 years ago (Morse 1993a, 1993c; Przywolnik 2005). The discovery of shell beads at Cape Range dated to more than 32,000 years BP also provides the earliest evidence for personal ornament in Australia (Morse 1993b). At this early time, Cape Range would have overlooked a gently sloping coastal plain stretching some six kilometres to the western shoreline (Morse 1988). Archaeological evidence recovered from rock shelters on the peninsula suggest that Indigenous people were episodically occupying these places, perhaps on a seasonal basis, from 35,000 to 17,000 BP. They utilised a diverse range of edible and non-edible marine fauna including crab, fish, sea urchins, molluscs and bivalves, and included a range of arid plains fauna in their diet. A predominance of sandy bottom mollusc species including baler shell (Melo sp.), pearl shell (Pinctada sp.), tusk shell (Dentalium sp.) and bivalves suggest a reefed or rocky shore was not a dominant coastal feature during this time (Morse 1999, 74).
 
During the height of the last glacial maximum, sea levels around the world dropped to about 150 metres below their current level as sea water was taken up by enormous ice shelves that blanketed parts of the earth. At this time, the retreat of the shoreline would have been less dramatic at Exmouth Peninsula than elsewhere in Australia, as it is just ten kilometres from the modern shoreline to the 200 metre bathymetric contour of the continental shelf. Even during the height of the last glacial period, rock shelters in the western foothills of Cape Range would never have been more than ten to twelve kilometres from the coast (Morse 1999). While there appears to be a hiatus in occupation across northwest Australia during the height of the last glacial maximum (O'Connor 1996, 1999, 2007; Veth 1993), archaeological evidence suggests that Pilgonaman Creek rock shelter on Cape Range may have been occupied at this time (Morse 1993a, 1993c).
 
Following the last glacial maximum, the warming of the atmosphere led to the slow rise of sea levels and the return of people to the Cape Range area. The coastline would have been considerably different to that prior to glaciation. While a broader range of rock shelters are occupied after the last glacial maximum, there appears to be a similar resource use pattern to that found in the Pleistocene, with people exploiting marine and terrestrial resources. At Pilgonaman Creek and Yardie Well rock shelters terrestrial fauna dominate the assemblage, with an increased diversity in marine resources at the end of the Pleistocene and early Holocene, when the coast was only two to three kilometres from the rock shelter. According to Przywolnik (2005, 190) evidence of mangroves appear for the first time on the northern part of the peninsula at around 10,730 BP, when fragments of mud whelk (Terebralia palustra) appear in the Jansz rock shelter deposit. With the advancing sea levels, the early Holocene coastline would have provided a variety of marine habitats (mangroves, rocky coasts and sandy bottoms), a rich resource base to sustain human populations.
 
It is also during this phase that rock art first emerges in the area, and for a few thousand years white ochre motifs are painted on the walls of the C99 rock shelter (Przywolnik 2005). Both Jansz and C99 rock shelters are abandoned for a second time, ca. 8,000 BP, coinciding with the decline of mangrove habitat on the peninsula. Mandu Mandu Creek rock shelter was not occupied at all during this period (Morse 1999). The earliest shell middens in the nominated area date to around the early mid-Holocene on the Warroora coast and nearby Coral Bay. The Warroora midden dated to 7,810 BP and the Mulanda Bluff midden (7,210 BP) both contain remains of Terebralia shell (Morse 1996).
 
Archaeological evidence suggests that an intensification of occupation began ca. 6,000 BP when sea levels stabilised at their current levels. Rock shelters and shell middens show a similar marine faunal assemblage to that of the Pleistocene with the addition of more turtle bone and shell, and an expanded terrestrial faunal assemblage (Morse 1993a). There is also a change in the type of stone used during this period with exotic fine-grained stone being introduced to sites and a new tool assemblage, including tula adzes, burren adzes and backed artefacts and points. Tula adzes and burren adzes were used for woodworking, while backed artefacts and points were used in hunting. New rock art motifs painted in red rather than white ochre also appear, showing stylistic similarities with rock art found in the Pilbara and Murchison regions (Przywolnik 2005, 191 and 200). These late Holocene developments are indicative of growing social and economic networks with groups from outside the peninsula. During the Holocene changes in technology and food preferences conform to the established sequence in the Pilbara and other parts of northern Australia.
 
Relations between Europeans and Indigenous people
Early ethno-historic descriptions of the original Indigenous people occupying Exmouth Peninsula are few. This is in part attributed to the area's evaluation as offering little early agricultural potential and as hazardous to shipping, resulting in little exploration and visitation.
 
The first recorded European contact with North West Cape was a sighting by the crew of the Dutch ship Zeewolf in 1618. Later the same year, the first known landing by a European was made by Captain Jacobz of the ship Mauritius (DEWHA 2007b).
 
An early proposal to establish a northwest colony for the purpose of cultivating cotton was championed by surveyor Francis Thomas Gregory in 1861. He recorded a meeting with local Indigenous people:
 
On our return to the 'Dolphin' we found that she had been visited by two natives, who had paddled off on logs of wood, shaped like canoes, not hollow, but very buoyant, about seven feet long and one foot thick, which they propelled with their hands only, their legs resting on a little rail made of small sticks driven in on each side (Gregory 1884, 56).
 
Other early interactions between Europeans and the Indigenous people of Exmouth Peninsula came about as a result of a shipwreck on North West Cape in 1876. The book The Stefano Castaways is a translation of an original manuscript recording the experiences of two shipwrecked sailors from the barque Stefano. It describes the Yinikutira (Jinigudira) and their daily activities, including food gathering and hunting. Marine resources were their staple foods, in particular fish, turtles and dugong (Scurla cited in Przywolnik 2003, 15). Tindale (1974, 243) also notes that the traditional occupants of the peninsula lived amongst the mangroves and were 'coastal people who went out to sea on rafts of sticks'.
 
There is no one living who claims direct descent from the Yinikutira people (Dench 1998). Details of what happened to the Indigenous people of Cape Range are unknown. In 1865, the Colonial Secretaries Office in London decreed convict labour was not permitted in areas above the 26th parallel, necessitating the use of Indigenous labour in the pastoral and pearling industries. In 1867 the British Government passed the Masters and Servants Act. This meant that Indigenous people could enter into labour agreements with potential employers, however, Indigenous people absconding from service were pursued and imprisoned if they left the stations or pearling fleets. Absconders ended up doing hard labour at the Roebourne Gaol.
 
By the 1880s, 'black birding' (forcibly detaining and removing Indigenous people from their traditional lands for work) was a common practice along the Pilbara coast (Randolph and Wallam 1991, 53; Weightman, 2005). Suggestions from ethnographic and linguistic research in regions south and east of the peninsula are that European diseases and the practice of 'black birding' decimated the Indigenous population (Przywolnik 2003, 15).
 
Pastoral leases were taken up across the Cape Range region, and with the aid of free labour, the pastoral industry in the Gascoyne region flourished. The pastoral strike in the Pilbara region during the 1940s and the subsequent introduction of an award pay resulted in an exodus of Indigenous people into regional centres, including Carnarvon and Exmouth.
 
In 1997 the Indigenous Land Corporation (ILC) purchased Cardabia Station, one of the early pastoral properties located within the boundaries of the nominated area. The station is a pastoral lease of 199,808 hectares that borders the Ningaloo Marine Park and is adjacent to the small tourist town of Coral Bay. The Baiyungu Aboriginal Corporation was established in 1999 primarily to hold title of the station on behalf of Traditional Owners (ILC 2007).
 
Traditional Owners in the region have formed a group with representatives of several language groups, known as the Gnulli, meaning 'all of us'. Members of this group are recognised as being the traditional custodians of the North West Cape area and have ongoing association with many sites within the nominated area. A native title claim for the area was lodged in 1998 on behalf of the Traditional Owners under the application name Gnulli. This claim is still active and a determination has not been made (NNTT 2008). 
 
European settlement history
William Dampier, one of many international mariners to traverse the Western Australian coast over the last four centuries, described the Ningaloo Coast in 1699 (Dampier 1703). Matthew Flinders' narrative A Voyage to Terra Australis of 1814 is the earliest known published occurrence of the name 'North-West Cape', although the French navigator Nicolas Baudin named the region 'l'extremité nord-ouest' as early as 1801, and his cartographer Louis de Freycinet named Cape or Point Murat at the extremity of the peninsula, and the Muiron Islands during the same voyage (Péron and Freycinet 1807-16; Flinders 1814; Baudin 1974; Marchant 1988). A number of international wrecks are found in close proximity to each other in and around the waters of Ningaloo Marine Park, including the early nineteenth-century wooden ships the American Rapid which sank in 1811 and the Portuguese Correio da Azia (1816), the Singaporean Fairy Queen (1875, wrecked in Exmouth Gulf), the Austro-Hungarian Stefano (1875) and Zvir (1902), the Scottish Benan (1888), and the Norwegian barque Iona (1923) (WAM 2007). Their presence points to the hazard presented by Exmouth Peninsula and Ningaloo Reef to navigators, particularly before the advent of reliable chronometers, when too much easting could be disastrous, and the strong winds and tides made navigating small vessels dangerous.
 
American whalers operated along the Ningaloo Coast as early as the 1790s, initially targeting sperm whales. With improved understanding of whale migrations, they began to hunt humpback whales. While these men most likely went ashore in search of meat and fresh water, they did not establish any infrastructure. Shore-based whaling occurred for brief periods between 1913 and 1955 at several points along the coast. Divers searching for pearls in the region worked mainly in Exmouth Gulf. Many of the pearling vessels were wrecked travelling between Exmouth Gulf and Fremantle (EA 2002; DEWHA 2007b).
 
The beginning of the pastoral industry in the region is marked by the establishment of Minilya Station in 1876. The lease covered the whole of Exmouth Peninsula, and was gradually subdivided into the present leases. Thomas Carter acquired 54,600 hectares on the northern and western side of the peninsula which became Yardie Creek Station. After subsequent subdivision from 1907 followed by amalgamation in 1933, the Western Australian Government acquired the remaining Yardie Creek Station in 1959, and it eventually formed part of the Cape Range National Park, gazetted in 1964. The Shire of Exmouth initiated the gazettal and also recommended the southern extension of the park to Yardie Creek, effected in 1969. In 1972 the newly formed Environmental Protection Authority instigated a thorough review of Western Australia's conservation system, eventually recommending the exclusion for conservation purposes of a number of areas of pastoral leases in the Exmouth region (WHCCC 2004; CALM 1987; CALM 2005b; DEWHA 2007b).
 
The town site of Exmouth grew around the US Naval Wireless Communication Station, established at North West Cape in 1962. When the communications station opened, Exmouth already had a population of 4,000 people. The town was gazetted on 6 December 1963 and the Shire was gazetted as a municipality in 1964. The town soon became the main service centre for trawling and aquaculture in the region. Tourism, recreational fishing and associated infrastructure followed (WHCCC 2004).
 
The Western Australian Government gazetted the state waters of Ningaloo inland to 40 metres above the high water mark as a Marine Park in 1987. The boundary included about 90 per cent of the reef, extending from about 260 kilometres from North West Cape south to Amherst Point. In 2004 the state government extended the park boundary south another 40 kilometres to Red Bluff, to ensure protection of the entire Ningaloo Reef (DEC 2008c).
 
In 2000, a proposal to develop the Coral Coast Resort, a $200 million marina resort at Mauds Landing, stimulated community opposition in Perth, Coral Bay and Exmouth, bringing Ningaloo Reef to national prominence. Between 2000 and 2003 Australian novelist Tim Winton campaigned with a number of non-government conservation organisations to prevent the development and Winton became spokesman for the grass roots 'Save the Reef' movement. In December 2002, Winton spoke at a 15,000 strong rally in Fremantle and on 4 July 2003, the Western Australian Premier, Geoff Gallop announced that the resort would not go ahead (Prior 2002; Winton 2002; Winton 2003). In 2004 the state government announced that it would seek World Heritage listing for the area.
Condition and Integrity
Except where otherwise stated, this condition report is based on information contained in the state and Commonwealth management plans for the marine management areas and Cape Range National Park (EA 2002a; CALM 1999; CALM 2005a; CALM 2005b).
 
The area encompassed by Ningaloo Reef Marine Park (state and Commonwealth waters) and the adjoining Cape Range is relatively undisturbed. Low visitation and limited development, coupled with its isolation from large population centres, contributes to the area's naturalness, the uninterrupted views of seascapes and the remote landscapes of the range and coastal plain.
 
The water and sediment quality of the marine park is good, due not only to the relative lack of onshore development, but also the limited terrestrial run-off in a region of low rainfall. Coral communities are currently in good condition, though with some localised impacts from recreational and commercial vessels, and associated anchoring and mooring activities. Historical impacts include outbreaks of a coral-eating snail (Drupella spp.), which killed much of the coral in local areas of reef in the 1970s and 1990s; other areas have been damaged in the past by low oxygen conditions following decomposition of coral spawn in the absence of currents to disperse it sufficiently. These episodes have normally been followed by periods of recruiting and restoration of the coral. The shoreline intertidal reefs are undisturbed in the main, with some localised trampling and historical coral collection.
 
Known as rainforests of the sea for their rich and diverse marine communities, coral reefs are, like their terrestrial counterparts, threatened by climate change and overexploitation. It is not clear yet how coral reefs around the world will respond to ongoing warming events. Coral bleaching due to rising global sea-surface temperatures is one of the biggest threats to their survival and structural integrity. A mean summer maximum sea-surface temperature increase of as little as one degree Celsius can appreciably hinder coral growth for six months. Ocean acidification, a result of increased carbon dioxide uptake by ocean waters, also threatens coral reefs around the world by preventing calcification. Coral and algae are in competition for habitat in reef systems. Sea level rise, while potentially providing more reef habitat, also increases sediment and nutrient influx to reefs, allowing algae to thrive at the expense of coral (McCulloch 2007; Pandolfi 2005, Pandolfi 2007).
 
Studies of ancient reef systems show that coral reefs have survived or recovered from extreme climate events, testifying to their resilience (Hughes 2007). However, the effect on and hardiness of modern reefs is unknown. The ecological response of corals to climate change is determined by a combination of global and local impacts, with feedback. Human activity and increased greenhouse gases might have reduced the resilience of modern reefs, while the rate of temperature, habitat and sea level change may be unprecedented, limiting the ability of reefs to withstand impacts or recover. Studies of past reef responses cannot be used with certainty to predict future reef responses to climate change. However, while it is not possible to shield a reef from global phenomena like climate change or ocean acidification, management and mitigation of local impacts, for example increasing no-take zones, regulating recreation activities, or reducing sediment and nutrient discharge will enhance its resilience (Boesch et al. 2001; Jackson et al. 2001; Anon. 2007; Hughes 2007; McCulloch 2007; Pandolfi 2005; Pandolfi 2007).
 
Water, sediment and organisms circulate continually between the different environments of the Ningaloo Marine Park and the Muiron Islands Marine Management Area (EA 2002a). Terry Hughes and colleagues wrote in 2007 that 'the recipe for killing a coral reef is simple': If reef, seabed or associated habitats are compromised, either by predation, contamination or climate change, the ecosystems' trophic structure alters dramatically. Predators like Acanthaster planci (the introduced crown of thorns starfish) or Drupella affect coral survival and reproduction, compromising the balance of adults and juveniles in a reef. Removing a single population from a reef can lead to widespread reductions in biodiversity and loss of reef structure. For instance, if a species of marine megafauna declines significantly, as other vigorous fish, reptiles and mammals will follow selectively and sequentially. Invertebrates then replace smaller vertebrates, and are in turn replaced by algae. The macroalgae previously controlled by larger herbivores begin to rival corals; coral cover decreases and species diversity continues to decline. The ecological shift from a coral-dominated to fleshy macroalgal reef is accompanied by large scale architectural loss. Structural integrity at Ningaloo as in other reefs depends on the balance of trophic levels (Hughes 2007; McCulloch 2007; Pandolfi 2005; Pandolfi 2007).
 
Although generally undisturbed, the seagrass beds and macroalgal communities of Ningaloo Marine Park are susceptible to inappropriate anchoring and mooring activities, and to environmental impacts such as oil spill or activities leading to increases in nutrient influx. The mangrove communities within the marine park are in good condition, with some localised disturbance in areas of high use associated with recreational activities, including mudcrabbing, and trampling. The sediments in Exmouth Gulf, including a small area of the marine park, have been subject to significant disturbance over several decades due to trawling.
 
Impacts to marine fauna species include recreational and commercial fishing and by-catch and physical disturbance of important marine habitats. Inappropriate interactive activities, boat noise or collisions may disturb whale sharks, reef sharks, rays, turtles, whales and dolphins.
 
The Commonwealth waters of Ningaloo Marine Park are relatively undisturbed. The main human activities are recreational and game fishing, boating, and shipping transport. Some commercial fishing has also occurred in the past. Game fishing is an important activity: an increase in hunting billfish, marlin and tuna, has led to localised depletion of key recreational species. Commercial tuna and billfish long-line fishing and deep water trawl fishing operate adjacent to the boundary of the Marine Park.
 
There are a number of oil exploration wells to the north-west of the marine park. Two petroleum exploration permit areas immediately abut and incise the Commonwealth waters boundary.
 
Urban development, limestone quarrying, petroleum and mineral exploration, exploitation of the aquifer, waste disposal, pastoral development and increased tourism all disturb or have the potential to disturb the ecosystems and landscapes of Exmouth Peninsula.
 
Recreational use (including camping and vehicle access, firewood collection, and the increased occurrence of fire) has contributed significantly to the deterioration of coastal dune communities adjacent to Ningaloo Marine Park. Other impacts include grazing by feral and domestic animals, and the spread of weed species. Boat strikes and vehicle access to the coastal fringe disturb turtle populations and affect nesting activity. Fox predation of turtle eggs continues to threaten turtles, whose populations have been affected in the past by over-hunting. Some hazards, such as entanglement with fishing nets, have diminished, due to the adoption of turtle exclusion devices by the local fishing industry. There are no feral animals in the Muiron Islands, which protect important turtle nesting sites.
 
The invertebrate cave fauna of Cape Range is vulnerable to disturbance. Populations have highly restricted distribution, and are sensitive to changes in cave environments. Any adjustment to the quantity or quality of water in the caves and wells of Exmouth Peninsula may adversely affect both the aquatic and terrestrial cave fauna. Water extraction from a number of borefields in the Exmouth area has brought about an upward trend in salinity in the aquifer. Urban and industrial developments are proposed for the area, particularly in the eastern part of the peninsula, with attendant construction impacts, waste run off and disposal issues. Pollution may also enter the cave system as a result of spraying of insecticides against mosquitoes. All these activities may unfavourably affect cave faunas.
 
Overgrazing has been recorded in parts of the range, and is another source of disturbance both on the surface and underground, leading to increased run off, pollutants and sediments entering the underground system. Exotic fish, harmful to native cave fauna, have been found in more recent housing developments south of Exmouth township. The physical characteristics of cave systems change markedly as visitation increases: touching, trampling, collecting, and the unsuitable disposal of litter damages cave ecosystems.
 
The resource sector has a number of interests in Exmouth Peninsula, particularly in the quantity of high-grade limestone in Cape Range. The national park, including its proposed additions, are subject to a variety of mining tenements and reserves, along with petroleum exploration permits, although there is no active production at present. Mining in the karst environment of Cape Range has a number of impacts, including localised destruction of caves and other karst features, along with disturbance on a broader scale, including to the hydrology of the karst system and to the faunal communities it supports.
 
Thirty weed species are recorded from the peninsula, most of which occur around Exmouth township. Significant weed invasion has also occurred in the Yardie Creek gorge. On the western coastal plain, buffel grassland has replaced the native Triodia grassland. Introduced mammals are well established in the area, including goats and foxes.
 
Bone accumulations in the cave deposits of Cape Range suggest that more than half the original mammal species of Exmouth Peninsula have become extinct since European colonisation. This reflects a trend across Australia (Baynes and Jones 1993).
 
Only a handful of the caves and rock shelters of the Cape Range region have been investigated for their archaeological potential (O'Connor 2007). The rock shelters considered in this assessment – Mandu Mandu Creek, Pilgonaman Creek, Jansz and C99 – all have relatively undisturbed living deposits. These dry limestone caves have provided excellent preservation conditions for terrestrial and marine faunal remains.
 
A number of open midden sites are also located on Exmouth Peninsula. These deposits, generally found in dune blowouts and swales behind the foredunes, vary in size, composition, location and density (Przywolnik 2005). All of these sites have to varying degrees been affected by severe weather in the form of tropical cyclones, contributing to their current appearance and condition (Przywolnik 2002).
Location
About 710,000ha, in northwest Western Australia, being: (1) a coastal strip including Cape Range extending from North West Cape about 260km south-south-west to Red Bluff, and (2) adjacent marine areas, reefs and islands. The area generally comprises:
·       Ningaloo Marine Park (Commonwealth Waters),
·       Ningaloo Marine Park (State Waters),
·       Muiron Islands Marine Management Area (including the Muiron Islands),
·       Jurabi Coastal Park,
·       Bundegi Coastal Park,
·       Cape Range National Park,
·       Learmonth Air Weapons Range,
·       Northern and western parts of Vacant Crown Land west of Learmonth town,
·       North-west part of Exmouth Pastoral Lease,
·       Northern part and western coastal strip of Ningaloo Pastoral Lease,
·       Western coastal strips of Cardabia, Warroora and Gnaraloo Pastoral Leases, and
·       North-west coastal strip on Quobba Pastoral Lease.
Major Exclusions:
·       North West Cape Area A, excepting the part of the Point Murat Naval Pier that lies seaward of Mean High Water,
·       Coral Bay town area, and
·       Cardabia, Warroora and Gnaraloo Homesteads.
 
The area is bounded by a line commencing at the south east corner of Ningaloo Marine Park (Commonwealth Waters), then westerly and northerly via the western boundary of Ningaloo Marine Park (Commonwealth Waters) to its intersection with the western most point of the Muiron Islands Marine Management Area (approximate MGA point Zone 50 214360mE 7599010mN), then north easterly, south easterly and westerly via the boundary of the Muiron Islands Marine Management Area to its intersection with the Ningaloo Marine Park (State Waters) boundary (approximate MGA point 219460mE 7592750mN), then southerly and westerly via the Ningaloo Marine Park (State Waters) boundary to its intersection with the eastern boundary of Bundegi Coastal Park, then southerly, westerly and northerly via the eastern, southern and western boundary of Bundegi Coastal Park to its intersection with the eastern alignment of the northern boundary of Lot 96 P182062 (approximate MGA point 204130mE 7578440mN), then westerly and southerly via the alignment and the northern and western boundaries of Lot 96 P182062 to its intersection with the northern boundary of Lot 43 P209471, then westerly and southerly via the boundary of Lot 43 P209471 to its intersection with the northern boundary of Lot 78 P211955, then westerly, southerly and easterly via the northern, western and southern boundary of Lot 78 P211955 to its intersection with the north west corner of Water Supply Reserve 34055, then southerly via the western boundary of Water Supply Reserve 34055 and its alignment to its intersection with the northern boundary of Lot 164 P220081, then westerly via the northern boundary of Lot 164 P220081 to its intersection with the 2015 Pastoral Lease Exclusion Area boundary (data produced by Landgate and current on 10 November 2009) at approximate MGA point 198860mE 7557300mN, then southerly and westerly via the eastern boundary of the 2015 Pastoral Lease Exclusion Area to its intersection with the north east corner of Lot 97 P213189, then southerly via the eastern boundary of Lot 97 P213189 to its intersection with the 2015 Pastoral Lease Exclusion Area boundary, then southerly via the eastern most boundary of the 2015 Pastoral Lease Exclusion Area with MGA northing 7339530mN at approximate MGA point 749860mE 7339530mN (note that Coral Bay township and areas around Cardabia Homestead, Warroora Homestead and Gnaraloo Homestead are excluded from The Ningaloo Coast area), then north westerly to the intersection of the 2015 Pastoral Lease Exclusion Area boundary with MGA northing 7339930mN (approximate MGA point 749277mE 7339930mN), then north easterly, north westerly and south westerly via the 2015 Pastoral Lease Exclusion Area boundary to its intersection with the Ningaloo Marine Park (State Waters) boundary at approximate MGA point 749630mE 7341070mN, then westerly and northerly via the southern and western boundary of Ningaloo Marine Park (State Waters) to the point of commencement. Note: all excluded roads located within the outer boundaries of the 2015 Pastoral Lease Exclusion Area are included in The Ningaloo Coast area unless specifically excluded in the items 1-5 below.
 
The following areas are excluded:
  1. All that part of Lot 44 P209471 (North West Cape Area A) extending to the Mean High Water Mark. Note: that the part of Point Murat Navy Pier lying east of mean HWM is included in The Ningaloo Coast.
  2. Lot 197 P190306.
  3. Lot 160 P217418 and Lot 161 P217418.
  4. An area bounded by a line joining the following MGA points consecutively: Zone 50 193571mE 7544828mN, 196174mE 7544417mN, 195714mE 7541771mN, 193124mE 7542183mN, then directly to the point of commencement.
  5. An area bounded by a line joining the following MGA points consecutively: Zone 50 198710mE 7564982mN, 198752mE 7562899mN, 197782mE 7562899mN, 197743mE 7565178mN, then directly to the point of commencement.
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Report Produced  Tue Sep 30 23:25:02 2014