Emu Emu Society
Journal of BirdLife Australia
RESEARCH ARTICLE

The distribution and protection of intertidal habitats in Australia

Kiran L. Dhanjal-Adams A F , Jeffrey O. Hanson A , Nicholas J. Murray B , Stuart R. Phinn C , Vladimir R. Wingate C D , Karen Mustin A , Jasmine R. Lee A , James R. Allan A C , Jessica L. Cappadonna A , Colin E. Studds A E , Robert S. Clemens A , Chris M. Roelfsema C and Richard A. Fuller A

A School of Biological Sciences, University of Queensland, Brisbane, Qld 4072, Australia.

B Centre for Ecosystem Science, School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of New South Wales, Sydney, NSW 2052, Australia.

C School of Geography, Planning and Environmental Management, University of Queensland, Brisbane, Qld 4072, Australia.

D Department of Environmental Science, University of Basel, Basel 4056, Switzerland.

E Department of Geography and Environmental Systems, University of Maryland Baltimore County, Baltimore, MD 21250, USA.

F Corresponding author. Email: kiran.dhanjal.adams@gmail.com

Emu 116(2) 208-214 https://doi.org/10.1071/MU15046
Submitted: 29 April 2015  Accepted: 24 December 2015   Published: 10 March 2016

Abstract

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. Here, we utilised freely available satellite imagery to produce 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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