Sea Trees and tides

Australia, the island continent, is surrounded by approximately 11,000 km of mangrove-lined coast, being around 18% of the coastline. Mangroves are uniquely adapted trees and larger shrubs that inhabit the tidal sea edge. The habitat they form is rich in plant diversity and structural complexity, but this varies from place to place. For example, in southern Australia, forests of Avicennia marina often form open, accessible parkland stands. By contrast, along the northern coast, Rhizophora species dominate as almost impenetrable thickets of arching stilt roots, especially in more arid regions.

Western Australia (WA)
Fringing mangroves and expansive tidal flats of the semi-arid area of King Sound.
Northern Territory (NT)
Dense water edge trees of Rhizophora stylosa in Buffalo Creek near Darwin.
Queensland (QLD)
Visitors to lush wet tropic mangroves of the Daintree River estuary.
New South Wales (NSW)
Open parkland forests of Avicennia marina, Homebush Bay, Sydney.
Victoria (VIC)
Dense thickets of Avicennia marina bordering Hovells Creek in Limeburners Bay, Geelong.
South Australia (SA)
Shrubby Avicennia marina bordering a small creek in the Port Adelaide area.
Tasmania (TAS)
Low saltmarsh with no mangroves.

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AUSTRALIA A Wide Brown Island Continent

Australia’s mangroves are found in all mainland States and Territories with coastal boundaries, including Western Australia, the Northern Territory, Queensland, New South Wales, Jervis Bay Territory, Victoria, and South Australia. Mangroves are not present in Tasmania.

Click on ony of the states in the map on the right to view further detail of mangroves in each state.

Australia has the third largest area of mangroves in the world after Indonesia and Brazil, totalling around 11,500 km2 representing approximately 6.4% of the world’s total mangrove area. The larger forested areas of Australia’s mangroves, approximately 75%, occur in the humid tropics to the north where human population densities are low. However, there are notable areas of mangroves in temperate regions as far south as Corner Inlet in Victoria around 38° S. This is the most southerly and highest latitude site of mangroves in the world. These southern stands consist entirely of one species, Avicennia marina, a member of the plant family Avicenniaceae.

  • Dominant species

    Contrasting temperate &
    tropical mangroves

    Avicennia marina dominates the temperate south coast, while Rhizophora species dominate the tropical north. Distributions of mangrove species are affected by climate, with most restricted to warmer wetter areas of the north.

  • Avicennia Integra

    Exceptional biodiversity &
    distributional limits

    Australia’s mangroves show exceptional biodiversity, comprising 58% of species in the world. Australia has one endemic species, Avicennia integra, and a number of rare and uncommon species, hybrids and varieties. Australia’s mangroves also occupy the most southerly, and highest latitude, location for mangroves in the world.

  • Estuary mangroves

    Isolated & well protected

    Australia’s mangroves are largely low-impacted and protected by their isolation. They are rarely exploited directly and most occupy the leastpopulated northern coast. There are however localised impacts and pressures around estuary ports, and with urban development associated with recent sea-change resettlement to coastal areas.

Port Pirie

Mangroves, like those in Spencer Gulf at Port Pirie South Australia, are under pressure from heavy industry and associated pollution contamination.

Burnett Boardwalk

Boardwalks provide access and educational opportunities in a number of urban-estuarine interfaces, like this one on the Burnett River, Bundaberg, Central Queenland.

Mountains to mangroves sign

Australian communities are becoming increasingly aware of the linkages between coastal habitats, as shown in this sign in Moreton Bay, south east Queensland.

Another mangrove family, the Rhizophoraceae, dominates the vast northern coastline. Australia is one of the world’s largest countries, with a land area of over 7.7 million km2. The country spans 33° latitudinal range between tropic and temperate zones from Cape York, around 10° S, to just south of Hobart, around 43° S. By longitude, the country spans 41°, more than 5000 km. Australia is also the world’s driest inhabited continent. Bordering the coast of this vast dry land, mangroves exist as a relatively thin line hugging sheltered areas, including numerous islands and mainland enclaves. Around 70% of Australia’s mangroves occur within the reported 974 catchment estuaries (Ozestuaries 2006).

Greater Awareness and Emerging Pressures

The Australian coastline although relatively lightly populated, compared with other large countries with mangroves, has over 85% of its population living within 50 km of the coast. This reflects the coastal lifestyle that is an integral part of the Australian identity. Furthermore, the trend to move to the coast continues, with all States and Territories reporting their highest population growth rates within 3 km of the coast. Therefore, one of the emerging great challenges of the 21st century is the need to mitigate current environmental damage and disturbance, while addressing the growing threats to diminishing natural habitats like Australia’s amazing mangroves. In the following pages, the extraordinary wonders and numerous benefits of Australia’s mangroves are described and explored, along with the factors that influence their health, growth and distribution. Australia’s mangroves, like never before are facing the challenge of a rapidly changing, dynamic world. Implicit in this, and in consideration of the factors that influence mangrove diversity and growth, is how these growth limitations ultimately define the vulnerability of each species to changes taking place within the unique natural environment of mangroves.

Welcome to the dynamic world of Australia’s mangroves!

Community Volunteers

A key feature of MangroveWatch is its close partnership between community volunteers and scientists from the James Cook University’s Mangrove Hub. Together they are systematically recording basic data as video and still imagery for assessments of estuarine habitat health.

Armed with expert support, training and advice, MangroveWatch volunteers in key regions are actively contributing to the monitoring of local estuaries and shorelines. An important goal in this phase of the program is to develop a network of like minded groups with the aim of producing public documents that describe important issues affecting local estuaries and mangroves, and their overall health.

Getting Involved

If you would like to find out more about us or if you like to initiate your own MangroveWatch group within your area, please contact someone at the Mangrove Hub. We will be happy to help.

  • Mangrove Hub Facilitator
  • Dr Norm Duke
  • MangroveWatch Ltd
    ABN: 44 153 297 771
  • PO Box 1250,
  • Elanora Q 4221
  • Mangrove Hub Email

Mangrove Watch Brochure

You can download our fact and information sheet (see link below) to get more information about the MangroveWatch programs.

Mangrove Watch Brochure