The distribution and protection of intertidal habitats in Australia

Dhanjal-Adams Kiran L., Hanson Jeffrey O., Murray Nicholas J., Phinn Stuart R., Wingate Vladimir R., Mustin Karen, Lee Jasmine R., Allan James R., Cappadonna Jessica L., Studds Colin E., Clemens Robert S., Roelfsema Chris M., Fuller Richard A. (2016) The distribution and protection of intertidal habitats in Australia. Emu 116, 208-214.

Shorebirds have declined severely across the East Asian–Australasian Flyway. Many species rely on intertidal habitats for foraging, yet the distribution and conservation status of these habitats across Australia remain poorly understood. In a recent study, we produced the first map of intertidal habitats across Australia. We estimated a minimum intertidal area of 9856 km2, with Queensland and Western Australia supporting the largest areas. Thirty-nine percent of intertidal habitats were protected in Australia, with some primarily within marine protected areas (e.g. Queensland) and others within terrestrial protected areas (e.g. Victoria).

Three percent of all intertidal habitats were protected by both marine and terrestrial protected areas. To achieve conservation targets, protected area boundaries must align more accurately with intertidal habitats. Shorebirds use intertidal areas to forage and supratidal areas to roost, so a coordinated management approach is required to account for movement of birds between terrestrial and marine habitats. Ultimately, shorebird declines are occurring despite high levels of habitat protection in Australia. There is a need for a concerted effort both nationally and internationally to map and understand how intertidal habitats are changing, and how habitat conservation can be implemented more effectively.

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