Reef communities – rocky and coral
Reef habitats occur in various locations in the Great Sandy Marine Park in the form of rocky shores and reefs, and coral ribbon and spot reefs. Rocky habitats include headlands, rocky shorelines and shelfs, subtidal rocky reefs and outcrops and intertidal pools. Each of these supports a range of species adapted to the rocky environment including reef species and intertidal organisms.
As well as providing homes for many animals, rocky shores and reefs are a productive food source and an important nursery area for many fish and crustacean species. The commercially and recreationally important fish found around rocky shores include blackfish, yellowfin bream, snapper, tarwhine, trevally, yellowtail and samson fish.
- Read more about rocky shores
The coral reefs of Hervey Bay are estimated to be 6,500 years old and the approximate southern limit of healthy fringing coral reef formations along the east coast of Australia. At least 46 species of hard coral are known to exist in Great Sandy Marine Park reef communities, some of which are endemic or rare to this region1. Shallow coral reef communities form a fringe around Hervey Bay and the near-shore islands of the Great Sandy Strait. These communities are an interesting mix of tropical, subtropical and temperate species of hard and soft corals. Deep-water reef communities include the Southern Gutters and the Twenty-five Fathom Hole in the centre of the northern section of Hervey Bay.
Coral reefs support recreational and commercial fisheries species and provide habitat for crustaceans, hard and soft coral, worms, molluscs, fish, turtles, sponges, sea urchins, sea snakes, algae and sharks as well as many tiny creatures hidden from the human eye. They also promote quality of life and aesthetics, play an important role in source and sink of calcium carbonate and carbon dioxide and provide protection to coastal communities by buffering storm surges, intense wave action and erosion by acting as natural breakwaters2. The reefs in the marine park may offer refugia for Great Barrier Reef coral species that have been affected by climate change.
Some of the reef habitats in the marine park include:
- Woongarra Coast – unique reef habitats cover approximately 2,500 hectares from Burnett Heads to Elliott Heads and support high densities of coral on rocky basalt outcrops including species from the Great Barrier Reef 2, 3
- Indian Head – rocky headland on K’gari (Fraser Island) with intertidal pools
- Middle Rocks – small rocky section of coastline on eastern side of K’gari (Fraser Island) with diverse and deep intertidal rock ‘champagne’ pools
- Point Vernon – rock platform
- Platypus Bay – dotted with an array of rocky subtidal reefs
- Wolf Rock – rocky reef comprising of four pinnacles with a series of steep walls and gutters.
- Rooney Point – unique deep water reef community in approximately 30m of water of rare encrusting Siliquariidae gastropods living in close association with Irciniidae sponges.
- Hervey Bay Coast – near shore coral reef communities over approximately 1,100 hectares, ranging from young developing reefs through to well-developed coral reef assemblages4. Some individual colonies are believed to be centuries old5. The Hervey Bay coastline supports up to 44 species of coral, including nine of the eleven known species of Turbinaria coral recorded from the Indo-Pacific region1.
- Little Woody Island – spectacular sponge gardens growing on a course gritty substrate along with soft corals, hydroids, gorgonians, sea pens, worm shell reefs and a low density cover of hard corals1. The diverse reefs here contain 38 coral species4.
- Woody Island – supports 33 hard and soft coral species, with extensive monospecific stands of branching coral (Acropora spp.) and brain coral (faviids) colonies considered to be more than a century old5, 6.
- Round Island – approximately 25 hectares of coral reef with up to 18 species of hard and soft corals. The habitat is comprised of a mix of sand, rubble, live and dead coral, soft coral and sponges4.
- Twenty-five Fathom Hole and Southern Gutters – two areas in the centre of Hervey Bay that are believed to support deep water reef communities based on the prevalence of reef fish caught in these locations.
- Four Mile Reef – reef dominated by the hard coral species Pocillopora damicornis. This location is regionally significant, with coral here being more similar to the reef systems in Panama than those found elsewhere in Australian waters5.
1 DeVantier, L 2010, Reef-building corals of Hervey Bay, South-East Queensland, Baseline Survey Report to the Wildlife Preservation Society of Queensland, Fraser Coast branch.
2 Bushell, H 2008, Assessment of the Status of the Benthic Reef Communities within the Woongarra Region, Unpublished report, School of Environmental Science and Management, Southern Cross University, Lismore.
3 Alquezar, R, Scannell, J and Boyd, W 2011, Coastal fringing reefs of the Burnett Mary Region, A report to the Burnett Mary Regional Group, unpublished report, Centre for Environmental Management, CQ University, Gladstone.
4 Zann, M 2011, The use of remote sensing and field validation for mapping coral communities of Hervey Bay and the Great Sandy Strait and implications for coastal planning policy, PhD Thesis, University of Queensland.
5 Butler, I 2015, Flood response and palaeoecology of the high-latitude, terrigenoclastic influenced coral reefs of Hervey Bay, Queensland, Australia, PhD Thesis, University of Queensland, Australia.
6 Zann, M, Phinn, S and Done, T 2012, ‘Towards marine spatial planning for Hervey Bay’s coral reefs,’ in Proceedings of the 12th International Coral Reef Symposium, Cairns, Australia.
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