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Bribie Island

Bribie Island is the northern most of the four largest sand islands. It is separated from mainland SEQ by Pumicestone Passage and is the only island connected by a bridge.


Millennium Ecosystem Assessment Reporting Category

Island Ecosystems


What ecosystem functions does Bribie Island perform?


Aerial view of the northern end of Bribie Island showing a diversity of coastal ecosystems.

Bribie Island with its high percentage cover of protected forest, wetland and grassland communities performs many important ecosystem functions (relative to other ecosystems) in SEQ (see Table 1). Vegetation provides essential maintenance of the local climate and associated special ecosystems. As well, this vegetation performs a critical role in retaining the soil and island integrity against the ravages of wind, rain and sea. The physical existence/structure of Bribie Island provides a buffering effect to mainland ecosystems and communities from coastal processes (e.g. winds and storm surges).

The relative isolation of the island’s important ecological areas and their limited accessibility, albeit that Bribie Island is the only large sand island in SEQ with a bridge to the mainland, provides a level of natural biological control for the island from mainland pest species . Due to the groundwater retention properties of Bribie Island’s geology, a regionally scarce and reliable high quality water source is available, providing a resource for the maintenance of the specially evolved groundwater dependent ecosystems and human activities.

This unique regional landscape supports high value individual flora and fauna species and communities, many of which are listed on national and state registers. Examples of these special species and ecosystems include wetland melaleuca forest, wallum, acid tolerant frogs, loggerhead turtles nesting zones and the regionally endangered frilled lizard and water mouse. However, only limited studies have been undertaken to date to provide more comprehensive information, new listings and even new species can be anticipated. Approximately 326 bird species have been identified on Bribie Island which is one of the greatest diversity in Australia, exceeding the Northern Territory Parks Department record of approximately 290 species for the entire Kakadu National Park. The extent and full significance of these natural assets and their importance to the genetic resources pool is presently not well studied, understood or catalogued.


Table 1:The relative magnitude (to other Ecosystem Reporting Categories) Bribie Island performs each ecosystem function.

Ecosystem Function Category Ecosystem Function 0
Regulating Functions
Gas Regulation            
Climate Regulation            
Disturbance Regulation            
Water Regulation            
Soil Retention            
Nutrient Regulation            
Waste Treatment and Assimilation            
Biological Control            
Barrier Effect of Vegetation            
Supporting Functions
Supporting Habitats            
Soil Formation            
Provisioning Functions
Raw Materials            
Water Supply            
Genetic Resources            
Provision of Shade and Shelter            
Pharmacological Resources            
Cultural Functions
Landscape Opportunity            


What types of ecosystems are on Bribie Island?

Bribie Island has evolved with a distinctly separate and different island ecology to other sand islands in SEQ. The island is characterised principally by wetlands and groundwater dependent ecosystems, perched lakes, dunes and ICOLS (Intermittently Closing and Opening Lagoons – to the sea), supporting a rich diversity of flora and fauna with several species listed on the State and Commonwealth registries of species at risk. For more detail on different ecosystems and their location, cick on the map to the right. Regional Ecosystems found on Bribie Island include: 12.1.1, 12.1.2, 12.1.3, 12.2.9, 12.2.14, 12.2.5 (a), 12.2.7 (a, b, c, d), 12.2.12 (a, b), 12.2.15 (a, b, c, d, e), 12.3.1, 12.3.4, and 12.3.5 (a). 


What is the area and extent of Bribie Island in SEQ?

Bribie Island is approximately 141 km2, 0.56% of SEQ. It is approximately 32 klms long and 8 klms wide. Bribie Island lies adjacent to Pumicestone Passage and it's location and structure plays an important role in the maintenance and formation of the surrounding coastal ecosystems.


South Welsby Lagoon, Bribie Island

Locals and visitors flock to the foreshore for a regatta in Pumicestone Passage.

Links to other publications and websites

Moreton Bay Regional Council
Queensland Government
Australian Government


What is the vulnerability of Bribie Island and threats to this ecosystem in SEQ?

Bribie Island is particularly vulnerable to impacts on its groundwater systems (lowering of the water table and seawater intrusion) with related threats to its groundwater dependent ecosystems. Risks to the island’s groundwater systems and dependent ecology have been exacerbated by new groundwater extraction by an extensive system of bores for commercial scale potable supply in addition to numerous existing bores for domestic garden and golf course irrigation.

Being a 'sand island' Bribie Island is extremely vulnerable to erosion by wind and waves with significant elevation of risk if protective vegetation is removed or destroyed by machinery, vehicles, foot traffic, vandalism or bushfires. Many of its important species and their community associations have a low resilience and are highly sensitive to habitat disturbance, disease, and competition from a wide range of impacts. Many of the risks identified are associated with the rapidly increasing visitor numbers from adjacent major SEQ cities as people seek the tranquillity and natural values of this largely unspoilt island. For example, up to hundreds of four wheel drive vehicles per week now access Bribie Island’s natural areas and beaches which are the natural nesting sites for endangered loggerhead turtles. Severe dune erosion is resulting from vegetation removal for sea views and foot traffic is destroying protective dune grasses such as Spinifex. Littering is also a major problem on Bribie Island.


How do we manage Bribie Island?

Bribie Island’s unique natural assets and affordable, relaxed family holiday lifestyle are in danger of being irreversibly damaged due to the easy access by visitors from burgeoning adjacent cities, rapid local population growth and development. The challenge in protecting Bribie’s values will be to provide suitable controls and education to manage human impacts, with future management emphasis shifting to prioritise conservation of natural assets above recreational uses that might be destructive.

In order to maintain the continued provision of ecosystem services it is essential proposals for large scale infrastructure projects on Bribie Island undergo rigorous environmental and social impact assessments. History has shown that local voluntary community groups (for example, Bribie Island Environmental Protection Association, Bribie Island Community Association and Friends of Woorim Beach) play an important role in monitoring environmental and social changes and providing informed local, independent and professional briefings on critical issues. Further safeguard against irreversible impacts could also be afforded through involvement of the Environment Institute of Australia and New Zealand (Australia’s the peak professional environmental body) in impact assessments, thus ensuring a minimum professional standard and adherence to an environmental code of ethics.

The most important ecosystems on Bribie Island are principally protected and managed according to requirements of their entities which include State National Parks, Marine Parks and Recreational Areas, State and Commonwealth listed threatened and endangered species. Apart from the laws and management plans which must be addressed as part of the Moreton Bay Regional Council planning requirements, the Queensland Government Department of Environment and Heritage Protection and the Australian Government Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities are the principal agencies responsible for administration of the relevant following acts and associated regulations:  Water Act 2000, Qld Environmental Protection Act 2004, Commonwealth Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999, Ramsar Convention 1971.