Great Sandy Man and the Biosphere Region
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The Great Sandy Biosphere Region

The Great Sandy Biosphere region covers approximately 1,239,854 hectares of land and marine area and contains many world renowned natural assets.

Great Sandy Biosphere

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Biodiversity Values

The region is one of the most diverse in Australia, spanning a sub-tropical to temperate 'transition' zone, and contains representative species from both climates, including some that are unique to the region.

Home also to more than 7,500 recorded species of fauna and flora including almost half of Australia's bird species and more marine fish diversity than the entire Great Barrier Reef, the region contains spectacular natural beauty. Rich with iconic and internationally renowned species, the region is also;

The Great Sandy Biosphere Region
  • a major breeding site for endangered marine turtles

  • a major transitory point for humpback whales on their southern migration

  • an important feeding and nesting ground for resident and migratory
    shorebirds; some of which migrate from as far away as Alaska each year

World Heritage Listed Natural Icons

Following a nomination in 1992 by the Australian Government, Fraser Island and parts of the Cooloola sandmass, known collectively as the Great Sandy National Park was World Heritage Listed. Containing the world's tallest and most complex rainforests growing on what is the world's oldest and largest unconsolidated sandmass, the area is a unique example of the natural beauty of the environment within the Great Sandy Biosphere.


The Great Sandy Strait, a double-ended sand passage estuary and the waterway between Fraser Island and the coastline, was listed as a Ramsar Wetland of International importance in 1999. Consisting of intertidal sand and mud flats, sea-grass beds, mangrove forests, salt flats, saltmarshes, Melaleuca wetlands and coastal wallum swamps, the Great Sandy Strait is home to resident and migratory shorebirds, seabirds, marine fish, crustaceans, dugong, sea turtles and dolphins which under the Ramsar convention are afforded protection under EPBC legislation against threats that are usually man-made or man induced such as; habitat destruction, reduced water quality and encroaching populations.

The Great Sandy Strait also contains the only known example of a Patterned Fens, a unique peat bog formed into a network of potholes containing highly acidic water, in the Southern hemisphere. The patterned Fens are home to an endangered acid frog species and ground parrots making them of interest to scientists and their conservation and protection important.

Human Populations and Living Sustainably within the Great Sandy Biosphere

The Great Sandy Biosphere region resides partially within the regional council areas of the Fraser Coast Regional Council and the Gympie regional council. The regional cities of Hervey Bay, Maryborough and Gympie lie within its borders. Minor regional centres of Rainbow Beach, Tin Can Bay, Childers and Tiaro are also represented and minor communities and townships exist on Fraser Island (Eurong, Happy Valley and Kingfisher Bay Resort) and townships on the mainland include, Howard, Bauple and Torbanlea. Approximately 200,000 people reside within the Biosphere boundaries.

Although there are no major cities within the region the region is experiencing unprecedented population growth with some reports indicating an overall population increase of 40% within the next 20 years.

More than 900,000 people visit the region each year and a diverse array of tourism, eco-tourism and recreational activity is well established and popular. Much of the tourism benefits for the region is associated with the outstanding natural assets that attract many National and International visitors. The temperate climate also allows for year round tourist activity.

Extensive agricultural production abounds with grazing, cane, horticulture and dairy all represented. Significant manufacturing and forestry industries also add to the region's economic output.

With substantial natural assets, an established population and infrastructure base and a rapidly growing population density, the GREAT Sandy Biosphere Region is well positioned to provide a living laboratory for the development of sustainable actions that balance resource use and economic development with resource conservation - a core aim UNESCO's Man and the Biosphere programme.

The Three Zones Model of a Biosphere

To qualify as a Biosphere under the UNESCO Man and the Biosphere programme, a region must contain three distinct, yet interrelated, zones:

Core Zone

The core Zone is an area that are currently under long term legislated protection and include areas such as; national parks, forest reserves, conservation parks and marine parks. Fraser Island is an example of a terrestrial core zone within the Great Sandy Biosphere region. The Great Sandy Marine Park which includes the Great Sandy Strait and Wide Bay area are examples of a Marine Core zone.

Buffer Zone

The buffer zone is one that surrounds the core zone but is not as strictly protected by legislation. Development within a core zone is managed carefully and regulated by various mechanisms. The Vegetation Management Act, for example, recognises and considers potential impacts upon natural resources as part of the planning and development process.

Examples of Buffer Zones include areas of land that are categorised as remnant vegetation or regrowth vegetation and most often provide a space for environmental research, education, tourism and recreation. Increasing awareness within the community of actions that improve the buffer zone function through partnerships between private landholders, natural resource management groups, educational institutions and local government are important functions within the Buffer zone and add the ecological value and sustainability of Buffer zone areas.

Transition Zone

The transition zone is the area where people live and work, using the areas natural resources. Industrial and agricultural activity most often take place in the Transition Zone. It is within these areas that local communities, conservation groups, business and other stakeholders have the opportunity to employ sustainable ideas and minimise the loss of biological diversity. Transition zones are often referred to as "Areas of Cooperation"

All three zones and the human activities that occur within them are interdependent. The health of the core zone, for example, is ultimately determined by activities that occur within the other two. Similarly the biodiversity and ecological health of the core zone provides a basis for understanding how to best conduct sustainable actions and even an aspirational goal for the future of Buffer and Transitional areas.

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Fauna & Flora International Australia
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