Natural Environment

Moreton Island is a 37km long, 10km wide, wedge-shaped, sand island located 40km from central Brisbane. Along with North Stradbroke and South Stradbroke islands, Moreton Island forms the eastern boundary of Moreton Bay—a large, shallow, biologically diverse expanse of water.
The island is an important recreation area for people who live in the Brisbane region, receiving more than 170,000 visitors a year.

Most of Moreton Island’s 19,000ha (excluding townships) is both national park and recreation area. The recreation area includes the national park and beaches to low water mark. The Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service (QPWS) manages the recreation area and the national park under the Recreation Areas Management Act 2006 and the Nature Conservation Act 1992. The Moreton Bay Marine Park—declared in 1993 for its important natural, cultural, recreational and economic values to Queensland—surrounds the island.

Moreton Island has a complex and fragile ecology with many plants and animals adapted to the low nutrient sandy soils and ‘tea-tree’-stained acidic waters. The island’s shape is always changing in response to the ocean currents and winds. The development of Mirapool—from a series of islands to its current form as a large lagoon—is a good example of how quickly the sand environment can change.

Geology and landform

Moreton Island represents one of the most outstanding records of continuing geological, geomorphological and biological processes that formed the sand island masses of South East Queensland. The natural dune processes of erosion, accretion and stabilisation by vegetation and the development and infilling of lakes and swamps has continued relatively undisturbed by human activities.

Mount Tempest, reaching 285m, is thought to be the highest stabilised sand dune in the world. Moreton Island is also currently the only area in the region where Pleistocene dunes have been naturally destabilised and are being actively reworked. Examples of this are seen at The Desert south of Tangalooma and the Big and Little Sandhills.

The only rock on the island is the rocky headlands in the Cape Moreton–North Point area. These are mainly of the Bundamba Group (siliceous sandstone, conglomerate, minor siltstone and shale) with Undifferentiated Volcanics (mainly rhyolite). These landforms support distinct vegetation types which are uncommon and of conservation concern in South East Queensland.

Plants and animals

Moreton Island is the least disturbed, large coastal sand island in South East Queensland and has considerable value in its preservation of extensive stands of many of the regionally significant coastal lowland vegetation communities. These include communities such as mangroves, melaleuca swamps, sedgelands, heath and eucalypt woodlands and open forests. The distribution of these communities is related to the age of the underlying sand deposits, the depth of the watertable, nutrient levels, degree of wind and sun exposure and the age of the community.

Moreton Island is one of the least polluted and least disturbed coastal environments along the Queensland – New South Wales coast. Most of the island has been included in the internationally recognised Moreton Bay Ramsar Site in recognition of its important wetland sites: the salt marsh, tidal flats, sandy beaches and perched lakes. This relatively pristine environment with a variety of habitats supports some interesting and valuable species.

Moreton Bay and the sand islands provide a vital feeding and resting point for over 50,000 migratory waders making their annual journey from the Arctic and sub Arctic regions between September and April each year. The eastern curlew, the little tern and the grey tailed tattler are among some of the uncommon migratory birds dependent on the Bay environment during their non-breeding season. The Mirapool Lagoon area and the Heath Island area of Moreton Island are considered vital feeding and roosting sites for waders.

Over 180 species of birds have been recorded from the island including seabirds, waders, forest dependent birds and birds of prey. Thirty-one species of migratory birds protected under international agreements (JAMBA, CAMBA) have been recorded on Moreton Island. The pied oystercatcher and the red-capped plover are two of the more common resident waders of Moreton Island.

The osprey, which breeds on the island, is considered regionally vulnerable in South East Queensland up to Fraser Island, and is listed in the Bonn Convention on the conservation of migratory species of wild animals.

Forty reptile species and 11 native terrestrial mammals, including six bat species, have been recorded for the island. In addition 11 species of amphibians have been recorded from the freshwater lakes, creeks and swamps of the Island.