World Heritage Places - Shark Bay - World Heritage values

Western Australia

World Heritage Values

Shark Bay, Western Australia, was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1991. The World Heritage criteria against which Shark Bay, Western Australia was listed remain the formal criteria for this property. The World Heritage criteria are periodically revised and the criteria against which the property was listed in 1991 are not necessarily identical with the current criteria.


Outstanding examples representing the major stages of the earth's evolutionary history.

Shark Bay contains, in one place, the most diverse and abundant examples of stromatolitic microbialites in the world, which are analogous to structures that were the dominant benthic ecosystems on Earth for 3,000 million years. The World Heritage values include:

  • diverse and abundant examples of Stromatolites/Microbial mats; and
  • Hamelin Pool and L'haridon Bight environment.

Outstanding examples representing significant ongoing geological processes, biological evolution and man's interaction with his natural environment.

Shark Bay provides outstanding examples of processes of biological and geomorphic evolution, including the evolution of the Bay's hydrologic system, the hypersaline environment of Hamelin Pool and biological processes of ongoing speciation, succession and the creation of refugia. The World Heritage values include:

  • steep salinity gradients due to development of banks and sills in the Bay (e.g. Faure Sill);
  • three zones caused by differing salinity levels - oceanic, metahaline and hypersaline (e.g. Hamelin Pool);
  • development of a landlocked marine basin forming a reversed estuary containing hypersaline waters;
  • vast, rare and scientifically important deposits of organic shells (Fragum erugatum), coquina, ooid shoals, lithified sediments, broad supratidal flats with evolution of subsurface evaporitic deposits and meromictic blue ponds;
  • modification of physical environment (e.g. build up of banks and sills, and water currents, caused by vast seagrass beds);
  • carbonate deposits and sediments (e.g. Wooramel Seagrass Bank);
  • Holocene deposits adjacent to Hamelin Pool and L'haridon Bight; and
  • evidence of ooid formation, submarine lithification and micritisation (e.g. Hamelin Pool).
  • three distinct biotic zones caused by salinity gradients;
  • restricted communities of marine organisms that have developed physiological adaptations to tolerate hypersaline conditions including bivalve Fragum erugatum, zooplankton;
  • great genetic variability in marine species (e.g. pink snapper, venerid clams);
  • stromatolites, benthic microbial communities;
  • high species diversity and density of bivalves;
  • seagrass-based ecosystems, including nutrient cycling, food chain, nursery grounds, variety of habitats and creation of steady-state hydrological conditions;
  • one of the most extensive seagrass meadows in the world;
  • highly species-rich assemblage of seagrasses;
  • physical structure of Wooramel Seagrass Bank;
  • isolation of fauna habitats on islands and peninsulas, and evolutionary processes illustrated in fauna such as Rufous Hare Wallaby and Banded Hare Wallaby;
  • isolated populations of Australian mammals demonstrating evolutionary processes;
  • transition zone between major marine ecological provinces including the northern limit of a transition region between temperate and tropical marine fauna, with resulting high species diversity (e.g. 323 fish spp; 218 bivalve spp; 80 coral spp currently identified);
  • transition zone between the Southwestern Botanical province dominated by Eucalyptus species and the Eremean Province dominated by Acacia species and including:
    • 145 known plant species at their northern limit in Shark Bay;
    • 39 known plant species at their southern limit in Shark Bay;
    • 28 known endemic vascular plant species;
  • vegetation of the southern Nanga and Tamala areas (contains the most pronounced overlap between botanical provinces);
  • the northern end of range for numerous southern faunal species , including known species of herpetofauna (e.g. frogs, lizards, skinks, snakes); and avifauna;
  • coastal end of range for arid-interior species, including numerous known species of herpetofauna (e.g. frogs, geckos, skinks, monitors);
  • examples of 'gigantism' in flora (e.g. tree heath vegetation south of the Freycinet Estuary); and
  • a notable diversity of plant and animal species (which includes an estimated 35 percent of Australia's total bird species).

Contain unique, rare or superlative natural phenomena, formations or features of exceptional natural beauty.

Shark Bay contains unique, rare and superlative natural phenomena and formations and features of exceptional natural beauty. The World Heritage values include:

  • stromatolites that represent one of the oldest forms of life on Earth;
  • Hamelin Pool, which is the only place in the world with a range of stromatolite forms comparable to fossils in ancient rocks;
  • Wooramel Bank, which forms part of one of the few marine areas of the world dominated by carbonates and is also the one of the most extensive seagrass meadows in the world;
  • the diversity of landscapes formed by aridity, peninsulas, islands and bays;
  • the exceptional coastal scenery at Zuytdorp Cliffs, Dirk Hartog Island, Peron Peninsula, Heirisson and Bellefin Prongs;
  • wide sweeping beaches of shells at L'haridon Bight;
  • great natural beauty of inundated birridas such as Big Lagoon;
  • strongly contrasting colours of dunes and cliffs of Peron Peninsula;
  • abundance of marine fauna including dugong, dolphins, sharks, rays, turtles and fish; and
  • extensive annual wildflower displays associated with the richness of flora.

Contain the most important and significant habitats where threatened species of plants and animals of outstanding universal value from the point of view of science and conservation still survive.

Shark Bay contains important and significant natural habitats where species of plants and animals of outstanding universal value from the point of view of science and conservation still survive. The World Heritage values include:

  • habitats for species of conservation significance;
  • species of conservation significance including:
    • plants (including at least 28 endemic vascular plant species, 11 of which occur on Tamala Sandplain and coastal zone), new species and expanded ranges for known species.
    • terrestrial animals (including the only populations or major populations of Burrowing Bettong (Bettongia lesueur), Rufous Hare-Wallaby (Lagorchestes hirsutus), Banded Hare-Wallaby (Lagostrophus fasciatus); Shark Bay Mouse (Pseudomys praeconis); and Western Barred Bandicoot  (Perameles bougainville);
    • marine animals, including Dugong (Dugong dugon), representing an  estimated one eighth of the world's population of this taxon, Humpback Whale (Megaptera novaeangliae), Green Turtle (Chelonia mydas) and Loggerhead Turtle (Caretta caretta);
    • reptiles (including 9 known endemic species); and
    • birds, including Thick-billed Grasswren (Amytornis textilis).