Australian Wetlands Database

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Peel-Yalgorup System


Key facts and figures:

Date of listing:

07 June 1990

Yanderup Canal (2008), Photo: Jeanette Muirhead

Australian Ramsar site number:



1, 3, 5, 6


Western Australia


26 530 hectares

Drainage Division or IMCRA  region:

South-West Coast

Wetland type: 

  • F - Estuarine waters; permanent water of estuaries and estuarine systems of deltas
  • G - Intertidal mud, sand or salt flats
  • H - Intertidal marshes; includes salt marshes, salt meadows, saltings, raised salt marshes; includes tidal brackish and freshwater marshes
  • O - Permanent freshwater lakes (over 8 ha); includes large oxbow lakes
  • Q - Permanent saline/brackish/alkaline lakes
  • Tp - Permanent freshwater marshes/pools; ponds (below 8 ha), marshes and swamps on inorganic soils; with emergent vegetation water-logged for at least most of the growing season
  • Ts - Seasonal/intermittent freshwater marshes/pools on inorganic soils; includes sloughs, potholes, seasonally flooded meadows, sedge marshes
  • W - Shrub-dominated wetlands; shrub swamps, shrub-dominated freshwater marshes, shrub carr, alder thicket on inorganic soils
  • Xf - Freshwater, tree-dominated wetlands; includes freshwater swamp forests, seasonally flooded forests, wooded swamps on inorganic soils

Key features of the site:

The Peel-Yalgorup System, located adjacent to the City of Mandurah in Western Australia, is a large and diverse system of shallow estuaries, coastal saline lakes and freshwater marshes. The site includes the Peel Inlet, Harvey Estuary, Lake McLarty, Lake Mealup and ten Yalgorup National Park wetlands.

The Peel Inlet and Harvey Estuary are large shallow estuarine waters fed from the Serpentine, Murray and Harvey Rivers, and are connected to the Indian Ocean through various channels. Lake McLarty and Lake Mealup are seasonal freshwater to brackish wetlands. The Yalgorup National Park wetlands are brackish to hypersaline. The wetlands are shallow and fed mainly from groundwater and rainfall. The site is fringed mainly by samphire, rushes and sedges and paperbark communities.

The Peel-Yalgorup System Ramsar site is the most important area for waterbirds in south-western Australia. It supports a large number of waterbirds, and a wide variety of waterbird species. It also supports a wide variety of invertebrates, and estuarine and marine fish.

The Yalgorup Lakes wetlands include Lake Clifton, which is one of the few places in the world where living thrombolites occur in inland water. Thrombolites are underwater rock-like structures that are formed by the activities of microbial communities. They are actively growing and rely on an inflow of fresh groundwater rich in calcium and bicarbonate. In Lake Clifton the thrombolites are considered to be over 2000 years old.

The Peel Inlet and Harvey Estuary are mainly used for recreational and commercial fishing, and other aquatic activities. The estuary system supports the largest professional and amateur estuarine fishery in Western Australia, with a high catch of Blue Swimmer Crabs and Western King Prawns.

The Peel-Yalgorup Ramsar site lies within Pinjarup country, a dialect group of the Nyoongar. There are hundreds of sites of significance to the indigenous community including sites of artefact scatter, camp sites, ceremonial sites, fish traps, skeletal remains and other sites of significance.

Justification of the listing criteria:

The Peel-Yalgorup wetland Ramsar site meets four of the nine criteria:

Criterion 1: The Peel-Yalgorup wetland Ramsar site includes the largest and most diverse estuarine complex in south-western Australia. It also includes particularly good examples of coastal saline lakes and freshwater marshes.

Criterion 3: Lake Clifton, which is part of the Peel-Yalgorup wetland Ramsar site, is one of the few locations in the world where living thrombolites occur in inland, hyposaline waters.

Criterion 5: The Peel-Yalgorup wetland Ramsar site is the most important area for waterbirds in south-western Australia, supporting in excess of 20,000 waterbirds annually. At one time (February 1977) greater than 150,000 individual waterbirds were recorded.

Criterion 6: Over 1% of the world population of several waterbird species including the Red-necked Avocet, Red-necked Stint, Red-capped Plover, Banded Stilt and Fairy Tern, regularly use the Peel-Yalgorup for the services the wetland provides such as food, shelter, nesting and moulting sites.

Please see the More Information page for additional information on this Ramsar site and access to the Ramsar Information sheets and other associated site documents.