Australian Wetlands Database

Ramsar wetlands

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Flood Plain Lower Ringarooma River


Key facts and figures:

Date of listing:

16 November 1982

The Ringarooma River (2009), Photo: DSEWPaC

Australian Ramsar site number:



1, 2, 3, 4




3519 hectares

Drainage Division or IMCRA  region:


Wetland type: 

  • 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
  • N - Seasonal/intermittent/irregular rivers/streams/creeks
  • 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
  • Xp - Forested peatlands; peatswamp forests

Key features of the site:

The Flood Plain Lower Ringarooma River Ramsar site is located on the far north-east coast of Tasmania, between Cape Portland and Waterhouse Point. The site is situated on the sandy flood plain of the Lower Ringarooma River which encompasses extensive marshlands and a number of shallow lagoons; Shantys Lagoon, Blueys Lagoon and Bowlers Lagoon. The Ringarooma River drains out into Ringarooma Bay.

The hydrology of this site is influenced by tidal flows, river flows and local groundwater. The bulk of the wetland area is above the tidal limit and is largely controlled by inflows from the Ringarooma River.

The Ramsar site is dominated by scrub and tussock grassland vegetation, and includes substantial areas of freshwater marsh habitat in the flood plain. The varieties of habitats support the following vegetation communities: Saltmarsh, Coastal grass and herbfield, Lowland Sedgy heathland, Wet heathland, Coastal heathland, Coastal scrub, Allocasuarina verticillata forest and Eucalyptus coastal forest.

The Flood Plain Lower Ringarooma River is considered to be a good foraging area for dabbling ducks and other waterbirds due to the large area of shallow water. A number of bird species listed under international migratory conservation agreements have also been recorded at the site. These include: Cattle Egret, Great Egret, Latham's Snipe, Curlew Sandpiper, Red-necked Stint, Bar-tailed Godwit, Caspian Tern and Greenshank. Australasian Shoveler, Little Tern, Hooded Plover and Fairy Tern are also known to breed within the Ramsar site.

The Ramsar site also provides habitat for threatened species, including four wetland-dependent species:

  • green and gold frog;

  • dwarf galaxias;

  • fairy tern; and

  • Australian grayling.

The Flood Plain Lower Ringarooma River was traditionally used by Indigenous people. It also has a history of European occupation and mining exploitation since the early 1800s. Currently, the Ramsar site is used for duck hunting and cattle grazing.

Justification of the listing criteria:

The Flood Plain Lower Ringarooma River Ramsar site meets four of the nine criteria:

Criterion 1: The Flood Plain Lower Ringarooma River Ramsar site is rare within the bioregion (Tasmania Drainage Division, Commonwealth of Australia 2010; Bass Strait IMCRA Province, Commonwealth of Australia, 2006), as it is rare for large rivers in Tasmania to be flowing through flood plains and forming the mosaic of wetlands that the Ringarooma River does (Stewart Blackhall, personal communication). The site contains good condition, regionally representative examples of wetland systems within a flood plain, with a mosaic of permanent and seasonal marshlands and a large river estuary (Boobyalla Inlet). Boobyalla Inlet is recognised as a Tasmanian estuary with high conservation significance (Edgar, Barrett and Graddon 1999).
Wetland vegetation communities recognised as threatened under Tasmanian legislation that have been recorded within the site (DPIW 2006) include:

  • freshwater aquatic sedgeland and rushland (Ramsar wetland type Ts) (vulnerable in Tasmania);

  • freshwater aquatic herbland (Ramsar wetland type Tp) (vulnerable in Tasmania);

  • lacustrine herbland (Ramsar wetland type Tp) (vulnerable in Tasmania);

  • Undifferentiated wetland (including Ramsar types P and U); and

  • Melaleuca ericifolia swamp forest (Ramsar wetland type Xf), (rare and endangered in Tasmania).

Part of the site is also listed on the Tasmanian Geoconservation Database (DPIW 2009) as part of the Northeast Tasmanian Pleistocene Aeolian System. A section of the marshes known as The Chimneys is thought to be a remnant of a once more extensive lake system, older than other lakes in the area (being situated well within known Pleistocene dunefields) and potentially containing palynological and palaeobotanical fossils and megafaunal remains (Blackhall et al 2000, DEWHA 2010a).

Criterion 2: The site supports six fauna species listed on the IUCN redlist or as nationally threatened species including the green and gold frog (Litoria raniformis Vulnerable, EPBC Act); dwarf galaxias (Galaxiella pusilla, Vulnerable, EPBC Act and IUCN Redlist); fairy tern (Sterna nereis, Vulnerable, IUCN Redlist); Australian grayling (Prototroctes maraena, Vulnerable, EPBC Act); Australasian bittern (Botaurus poiciloptilus, Endangered, EPBC Act and IUCN Redlist); shiny grasstree (Xanthorrhoea bracteata, Endangered, EPBC Act).

Criterion 3: This criterion includes consideration of the site's regional biodiversity, including biodiversity 'hotspot' status and regional endemism. The site has been described as important due to its diverse invertebrate fauna (RIS 2005). The series of shallow freshwater lagoons at the site are an important feeding and nesting place for many species of waterbirds. Approximately three kilometres of beaches are included in the site, from which a number of shorebirds have been recorded, including the hooded plover (Thinornis rubricollis), red-capped plover (Charadrius ruficapillus), greenshank (Tringa nebularia), red-necked stint (Calidris ruficollis), ruddy turnstone (Arenaria interpres), curlew sandpiper (Calidris ferruginea), black-fronted dotterel (Elseyornis melanops) and fairy tern (Sterna nereis) (Sally Bryant, personal communication). Approximately forty species of wetland dependent plants have been recorded at the site.

Species considered rare or threatened in the bioregion contribute to the justification of this criterion. The site provides wetland habitat for two regionally threatened bird species and four regionally listed flora species considered to be at risk in the bioregion (Tasmania). These include the little tern (Sterna albifrons, rare, TSPA); white-bellied sea eagle (Haliaeetus leucogaster, vulnerable, TSPA); purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria, vulnerable, TSPA), occurs in open areas in Melaleuca ericifolia swamp forest and in freshwater aquatic sedgeland and rushland wetlands in the site; ribbon weed (Vallisneria australis, rare, TSPA), occurs in freshwater aquatic herbland in the site; erect marshflower (Villarsia exaltata, rare, TSPA; native gypsywort (Lycopus australis, endangered, TSPA), which was previously thought to be extinct in Tasmania, has recently been found at the site. It occurs in association with lacustrine herbland in the site. Observed at one location on the western edge of Shantys Lagoon; Persicaria subsessilis (endangered TPSA).

Criterion 4: A number of migratory birds have also been recorded from the site, including 11 migratory birds listed in CAMBA, JAMBA, ROKAMBA and/or the CMS. These species include:

  • Latham's snipe (Gallinago hardwickii);

  • Curlew sandpiper (Calidris ferruginea);

  • Red-necked stint (Calidris ruficollis);

  • Ruddy turnstone (Arenaria interpres);

  • Bar-tailed godwit (Limosa lapponica);

  • Little tern (Sterna albifrons);

  • Greenshank (Tringa nebularia);

  • Caspian tern (Sterna caspia);

  • Cattle egret (Ardea ibis;)

  • Great egret (Ardea modesta); and
  • White-bellied sea-eagle (Haliaeetus leucogaster).

Quantitative data were not found for these species; however, the provision of support for these species during migration constitutes support during a critical stage of their life cycle.
The site also provides support for five nesting shorebirds at a critical stage of their life cycle (breeding) including the little tern (which has migratory listing as noted above), and the fairy tern (IUCN red listed).

The Tasmanian mudfish (Galaxias cleaveri), Tasmanian whitebait (Lovettia sealli) and Australian grayling (Prototroctes maraena) have been recorded in the Ringarooma River. These species all migrate between fresh and marine waters, which highlights the importance of the estuarine habitat provided by the site and constitutes support for these species during a critical stage of their life cycle.

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.