Cobourg Peninsula Ramsar Site Ecological Character Description

BMT WBM Pty Ltd., 2011

for
Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities

About the document

The Cobourg Peninsula Ecological Character Description

The Cobourg Peninsula Ramsar site is located in the Northern Territory, approximately 200 kilometres north-east of Darwin, within the Timor Sea Drainage Division. The site covers approximately 220 700 hectares, and its boundary is the same as that of the former Gurig National Park, now combined with the Cobourg Marine Park to form the Garig Gunak Barlu National Park. It covers the peninsula and a number of associated islands. It contains unique biodiversity and heritage assets and a variety of landforms, habitats and wildlife including terrestrial, riverine, freshwater, brackish and coastal/marine ecosystems.

This document also describes the current Ramsar listing criteria met by the Cobourg Peninsula Ramsar site. It was listed as a Wetland of International Importance because of its diversity of coastal and inland wetland types, support for populations of threatened species including a number of endangered turtles, maintenance of regional biodiversity, support for life-cycle functions such as turtle and waterbird breeding and refugia values, and for providing important fish nursery and spawning habitats.

This document describes the five critical components, processes and services for the Cobourg Peninsula Ramsar site. These cover diversity and connectivity of wetlands, flatback and green turtle nesting, waterbird breeding colonies, contemporary living culture and maintenance of global biodiversity. Limits of acceptable change for the Cobourg Peninsula Ramsar site have been proposed for all critical components, processes and benefits and services based on existing data.

The document also describes the key threats and knowledge gaps for the Cobourg Peninsula Ramsar site, and recommended monitoring needs and communication messages.

What is an Ecological Character Description?

An Ecological Character Description describes the ecological character of a wetland at the time of its listing as a Wetland of International Importance. The Ecological Character Description is a fundamental management tool for site managers, forming the basis of management planning and action as well as including guidance on site monitoring requirements to detect changes in the ecological character of the site.

The ecological character of a wetland is the sum of all the components, processes and services of that wetland. Ecosystem components are physical, chemical and biological parts of a wetland, from large-scale to very small-scale (e.g. habitat, species and genes). Ecosystem processes are the dynamic forces within an ecosystem. They include all those processes that occur between organisms and within and between populations and communities, including interactions with the non-living environment that result in existing ecosystems and bring about changes in ecosystems over time. Ecosystem services are the benefits that people receive from ecosystems.

The description also identifies limits of acceptable change which describe the range of variation which key aspects of the ecology of the site can vary without representing a change in the ecological character.

An Ecological Character Description also sets out the current Ramsar listing criteria met by the site, the key threats and knowledge gaps. Recommended monitoring needs and communication messages are also provided.

Further information on what Ecological Character Descriptions are and how critical components, processes and services are identified is available in the National Framework and Guidance for Describing the Ecological Character of Australian Ramsar Wetlands – Module 2 of the National Guidelines for Ramsar Wetlands – Implementing the Ramsar Convention in Australia.