Noosa: A new biosphere reserve for Australia

by Ben McCullen, Noosa Council

plant talkNoosa Biosphere Reserve was established in September 2007 at the most recent meeting of the Man and Biosphere Programme Organising Committee for UNESCO.

The area comprises the Noosa Shire local government area in Queensland and the adjacent coastal waters to 3km offshore. The total permanent population living in the Biosphere Reserve area is approximately 50,000 people with a seasonal population of up to 65,000 in peak tourist periods.

plant talkThe reserve is approximately 150,000 hectares and includes fresh water, tidal and terrestrial areas. Approximately 83,000 hectares of land straddles the regions of South East Queensland to the south and the Great Sandy Region to the north, which includes the Fraser Island World Heritage Area. The Biosphere Reserve is situated between two Ramsar sites (Harvey Bay and Moreton Bay) and provides essential connectivity between the significant coastal sand masses of Cooloola/Fraser Island complex and the tropical coastal forest uplands of the Blackall Ranges.

The reserve was established following high class scientific studies into the outstanding environmental conservation value that exists within Noosa and an extensive consultation process with the local community.

This comes at a pivotal time in the history of the Noosa community. For more than 40 years it has been home to one of the earliest and consistently active networks of community conservation groups within the state of Queensland and it enjoys wide support.

Noosa has a diverse and robust mosaic of interconnected remnant ecosystems linked to large vegetated areas. Its also important as it provides an altitudinal range of habitats, which incorporate both east-west and north-south stepping stones for fauna. Habitats range from littoral rainforest, coastal dune heath and woodlands in the east through to riverine and lake systems, wallum heath, rising through woodlands and tall open forests of Cooroy and other plateau and mountains to the west and north west. Interspersed across the altitudinal range are creek systems containing rainforest and ecotonal forest. Extinct volcanic plugs (inselbergs) which rise in the west of Noosa, such as Mt Cooroora, Mt Cooroy and Mt Cooran contain montane heath.