Australian Wetlands Database

Ramsar wetlands

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Bowling Green Bay


Key facts and figures:

Date of listing:

22 October 1993

Cape Cleveland and Mt Cleveland (1995) ,  Photo: Roger Fryer

Australian Ramsar site number:



1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6




Total area 35 500 hectares divided as:
(a) Mountainous areas above 20m: Cape Cleveland, The Cone, Storth Hill, Feltham Cone: 4000 hectares or approximately 11% of the area;
(b) Elevated Coastal Sand Dunes above 10 meters: only small areas of this land-type fall within the proposed area;
(c) Coastal Plain below 20 meters, most much less: approximately 32000 hectares or 89% of the total area.

Drainage Division or IMCRA  region:

North-East Coast; Northeast Shelf Province

Wetland type: 

  • 2 - Ponds; includes farm ponds, stock ponds, small tanks; (generally below 8 ha)
  • A - Permanent shallow marine waters in most cases less than six metres deep at low tide; includes sea bays and straits
  • D - Rocky marine shores; includes rocky offshore islands, sea cliffs
  • E - Sand, shingle or pebble shores; includes sand bars, spits and sandy islets; includes dune systems and humid dune slacks
  • F - Estuarine waters; permanent water of estuaries and estuarine systems of deltas
  • G - Intertidal mud, sand or salt flats
  • H - Intertidal marshes; includes salt marshes, salt meadows, saltings, raised salt marshes; includes tidal brackish and freshwater marshes
  • I - Intertidal forested wetlands; includes mangrove swamps, nipah swamps and tidal freshwater swamp forests
  • J - Coastal brackish/saline lagoons; brackish to saline lagoons with at least one relatively narrow connection to the sea
  • N - Seasonal/intermittent/irregular rivers/streams/creeks
  • R - Seasonal/intermittent saline/brackish/alkaline lakes and flats
  • Ss - Seasonal/intermittent saline/brackish/alkaline marshes/pools
  • Ts - Seasonal/intermittent freshwater marshes/pools on inorganic soils; includes sloughs, potholes, seasonally flooded meadows, sedge marshes
  • Xf - Freshwater, tree-dominated wetlands; includes freshwater swamp forests, seasonally flooded forests, wooded swamps on inorganic soils

Key features of the site:

The Bowling Green Bay Ramsar site is located 21 km north-east of Ayr, Queensland. The site plays a major role in protection of this area from erosion by cyclones. A diverse complex of coastal wetland systems occur at the site including inter-tidal seagrass beds, mangrove woodlands and saline saltpan communities on the coast, and brackish to freshwater wetlands inland. Extensive areas of forest and woodland, and some closed forest, occur on the mountainous areas and the coastal dune system.

The site has unusually low rainfall for the region, with most rain falling in summer. The heavy storm rains of the summer wet season provide fresh water into the site, reducing the salinities of the shallow inshore marine areas, the surface soils of the saltpans and the mangrove areas.

The Haughton River and many creeks feed into the wetland system. Groundwater is stored in two main aquifers that recharge from direct infiltration over the delta from rainfall, river flow and flood.

Of the 224 birds known to occur in the site, almost half are known to breed within it. The site is an important habitat for about fifty percent of the migratory species listed on international conservation agreements.

The intertidal and subtidal seagrass beds provide feeding habitat for the nationally threatened Green Turtle and the internationally threatened Dugong. Barramundi breed in the freshwater swamps of the site. Saltwater Crocodiles also inhabit the site.

The bulk of the site comprises a portion of Bowling Green Bay National Park. The site is used for conservation and recreation, such as fishing, camping, bushwalking and bird watching. Commercial and recreational harvesting of prawns and Mud Crab also occur within the site.

Justification of the listing criteria:

The Bowling Green Bay Ramsar site meets six of the nine criteria:

Criterion 1: The Bowling Green Bay Ramsar site is in the North-east Coast Australian Drainage Division. It is a representative of many coastal and seasonal wetlands in the area, but it is particularly significant for its diversity and extent of wetland types.

Criterion 2: The Bowling Green Bay Ramsar site provides feeding grounds for the nationally vulnerable Green Turtle. The site also supports Dugong, listed on the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of threatened species as vulnerable. Saltwater Crocodiles also inhabit the site.

Criterion 3: Bowling Green Bay is particularly important for the abundance and diversity of bird species. The site regularly supports substantial numbers of all Australian waterbird groups, including post breeding populations of Brolgas and Magpie Geese.

Criterion 4: This Ramsar site is of special significance as breeding and feeding habitat for Brolgas and Magpie Geese.

Criterion 5: The Bowling Green Bay Ramsar site seasonally supports in excess of 20,000 waterbirds.

Criterion 6: The Bowling Green Bay Ramsar site is likely to seasonally support 1% of the total population of the Brolgas.

Please see the More Information page for additional information on this Ramsar site and access to the Ramsar Information sheets and other associated site documents.