Australian Wetlands Database

Ramsar wetlands

   or go to Advanced search or A-Z Ramsar site list



Key facts and figures:

Date of listing:

16 November 1982

The coastal strip of sand dunes and beaches facing out into Bass Strait (2009),  Photo: Ken Morgan

Australian Ramsar site number:



1, 2, 3, 4




7034 hectares

Drainage Division or IMCRA  region:


Wetland type: 

  • D - Rocky marine shores; includes rocky offshore islands, sea cliffs
  • E - Sand, shingle or pebble shores; includes sand bars, spits and sandy islets; includes dune systems and humid dune slacks
  • 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
  • J - Coastal brackish/saline lagoons; brackish to saline lagoons with at least one relatively narrow connection to the sea
  • K - Coastal freshwater lagoons; includes freshwater delta lagoons
  • M - Permanent rivers/streams/creeks; includes waterfalls
  • O - Permanent freshwater lakes (over 8 ha); includes large oxbow 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
  • U - Non-forested peatlands; includes shrub or open bogs, swamps, fens
  • 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
  • Xp - Forested peatlands; peatswamp forests

Key features of the site:

The Lavinia Ramsar site is located on the north-east coast of King Island, Tasmania. The boundary of the site forms the Lavinia State Reserve, with major wetlands in the reserve including the Sea Elephant River estuary area, Lake Martha Lavinia, Penny's Lagoon, and the Nook Swamps.

The shifting sands of the Sea Elephant River's mouth have caused a large back-up of brackish water in the site, creating the saltmarsh which extends up to five kilometres inland. The present landscape is the result of several distinct periods of dune formation.

The extensive Nook Swamps, which run roughly parallel to the coast, occupy a flat depression between the newer parallel dunes to the east of the site and the older dunes further inland.

Water flows into the wetlands from the catchment through surface channels and groundwater, and leaves mainly from the bar at the mouth of the Sea Elephant River and seepage through the young dune systems emerging as beach springs.

The Lavinia State Reserve is one of the few largely unaltered areas of the island and contains much of the remaining native vegetation on King Island. The vegetation communities present on the site include Succulent Saline Herbland, Coastal Grass and Herbfield, Coastal Scrub and King Island Eucalyptus globulus Woodland. The freshwater areas of the Nook Swamps are dominated by swamp forest. Nook Swamps and the surrounding wetlands contain extensive peatlands.

The site is an important refuge for a collection of regional and nationally threatened species, including the nationally endangered Orange-bellied Parrot. This parrot is heavily dependent upon the samphire plant, which occurs in the saltmarsh, for food during migration. They also roost at night in the trees and scrub surrounding the Sea Elephant River estuary.

Several species of birds which use the reserve are rarely observed on the Tasmanian mainland, including the Dusky Moorhen, Nankeen Kestrel, Rufous Night Heron and the Golden-headed Cisticola.

The site is currently used for conservation and recreation, including boating, fishing, camping and off-road driving. There are artefacts of Indigenous Australian occupation on King Island that date back to the last ice age when the island was connected to Tasmania and mainland Australia via the Bassian Plain.

Justification of the listing criteria:

The Lavinia Ramsar Site meets four of the nine criteria:

Criterion 1: The Lavinia Ramsar site is in the Tasmanian Australian Drainage Division. The site provides excellent examples of a variety of coastal and inland wetland types. The dunes along the coastal strip of the site are of outstanding geoconservation significance for Tasmania.

Criterion 2: The nationally endangered Orange-bellied Parrot uses the Lavinia Ramsar site during its annual migration. Other nationally threatened species that occur on the site are the Green and Gold Frog, Scrambling Ground Fern and King Island subspecies of the Brown Thornbill.

Criterion 3: The Lavinia Ramsar site supports six regionally threatened fauna species, including the White-bellied Sea Eagle, and a number of regionally threatened flora species including Tiny Caladenia, Trithuria, Banded Greenhood, Blueberry Ash, and Small Trigger Plant. Erect Sneezeweed was also noted as being present at the site. Starwort is only known in Tasmania from the Sea Elephant River. Cowper Point has a high diversity of beach nesting and migratory shorebirds, with eight known resident species.

Criterion 4: Lavinia provides a critical feeding site for the nationally endangered Orange-bellied Parrot during its annual migration between south-eastern Australia and Tasmania. The site supports many internationally listed migratory species including the Cattle Egret, Great Egret, Ruddy Turnstone, Sharp-tailed Sandpiper, Red-necked Stint, White-throated Needletail, Caspian Tern and Greenshank.

The site contains three rookeries of the Short-tailed Shearwater. The beaches of the site support beach nesting shorebirds such as the Fairy Tern and Hooded plover, and Cowper Point is an important site for the Little Tern. The site also supports breeding populations of the Little Penguin.

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.