We’re conducting a long-term study into the birds and animals living on and within the sand banks of the Southern Broadwater to help with the management of threatened species and support the protection of the Gold Coast’s waterways environmental values.

With the waterways having a natural capital value of $26 billion it’s important to ensure they’re properly managed now and into the future.

We need to adapt our planning practices to manage the likely impacts of climate change and population growth on our waterways so that they remain accessible to our marine and tourism industries and for recreational use.

This study will help us do that by providing valuable base-line data we can feed into management plans and use to assess potential risks to the birds and marine life which call these areas home.

The study will focus on the sand banks near Wave Break and Curlew Islands which have been identified as foraging areas for shorebirds such as the Critically Endangered Eastern Curlew.

This is the first time we’ve done a formal survey of the banks and the creatures living on and within them.

Improving our understanding of these areas gives us the chance to anticipate changes which might be triggered by population growth and climate change and head off any adverse impacts.

We’ve engaged a final-year student to undertake the study as part of our participation in Griffith University’s Industry Affiliates Program.

The Spit Master Plan has identified Wave Break and Curlew Islands as popular recreation areas and we need to ensure that they’re managed in a way that enables people to enjoy them for years to come.

The study will focus on benthic organisms which are organisms living in the sand bank surface down to a depth of about 20 centimetres.

We’re aiming to map the sensitivity of the sandbanks and better understand the ecological processes which take place on them such as the relationship between the marine life in the benthic layer and the numbers of shorebirds and their feeding habits.

Information gathered will also be fed into the GCWA’s Sand Management Plan which determines where and how sand recovered through dredging is used for shoreline replenishment and the impact that process has on creatures living in the benthic layer.

The study will concentrate on:

  • Identifying any invertebrates found in the benthic zone such as worms
  • Examining sediment particles to determine size and how they’re distributed on the banks
  • Counting shorebirds and
  • Reviewing any existing mapping.

It’s anticipated that the study will take place over several years, enabling the GCWA to build up a solid understanding of the ecological significance of the sand banks and adjust their management as needed.