Coastal ecosystems

The Isaac Regional coastline is home to vast array of marine and coastal habitats that support the ecology and growth of the Great Barrier reef.  

The following shallow coastal habitats are found within the Isaac Regions coastal area: 

  • Coral reefs 
  • Rock foreshores and bays 
  • Salt flats  
  • Sandy beaches and bays 
  • Mangrove forests 
  • Muddy bays 
  • Saltmarsh 
  • Seagrass beds 
  • And estuarine habitats  

The relationships between these habitats are the fundamental building blocks for our coastal ecosystem and are all vitally important in sustaining marine life that build and maintain the Great Barrier Reef.  

Many of the fish and crustacean species found on the outer reef start their life nearer to the coast in our mangroves, salt marshes and seagrasses. The vegetative marine habitats provide tight spaces between the roots and leaves creating a safe nursery for species to lay their eggs. These habitats contribute largely to both herbivorous and carnivorous diets important for early development and help feed other larger species. Threatened species such as dugongs and marine turtles also come in when the tide is high to graze on the seagrass beds and use the shallow coastline for shelter and a safe space to breed. 

The Isaac Coast hosts many other marine species, some of which are dangerous to touch or aggravate. Our shallow coastal areas are home to 6 major groups of coastal stingers that can harm or be fatal to humans; Jellyfish, Sting Rays, Cone Snails, Blue Ringed Octopus, Stone fish and Sea Urchins. These species can be found in intertidal areas along our coast in rock pools and in shallow water. Although they may be dangerous to encounter, they all serve vital roles in the food chain and to our ecosystem so it’s best to be respectful and careful when visiting their habitats to avoid injury.   

Our coastal ecosystems aren’t just important to our marine life but also to the wellbeing of our planet. Mangroves, mudflats, seagrass and saltmarsh all act as something known as carbon sinks, which is where carbon is cycled from the atmosphere and surrounding environment and gets locked up in these habitats as blue carbon (marine locked carbon).  Compared to terrestrial forests, blue carbon can be sequestered at a much faster rate and can be stored for longer. These ecosystems act as carbon offsets and reduce the impact that CO2 can have when released into the atmosphere.

In larger weathering events, coral reefs and mangrove ecosystems also become an effective buffer between the ocean and the mainland, reducing the impact of severe storms and coastal flooding. This is vital for the safety of our coastal communities and the future of agriculture.   

On an economic scale our coastal ecosystem plays a large role for our fisheries and tourism industry. 75% of commercially caught fish and crustaceans develop in mangrove nurseries, hence our mangrove ecosystems help provide jobs throughout Queensland. Also, our well-preserved beaches, reef, and marine vegetation aid our tourism industry, by supporting biodiversity in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park and encouraging key species closer to the shoreline for travellers to experience.  

Some of the fun ways you can experience Isaac’s coastal habitats is by visiting some of our coastal communities, see the reef by boat or by joining coastal volunteer projects. Just remember when visiting beaches and rockpools it is important to respect all wild animals and practice Beach Safety. If you would like to learn more about what is happening in the local area to help preserve our ecosystem visit the Get Involved page for more information.