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Environment

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Vegetation

In spring, the native vegetation is a blaze of colour. There are over 580 indigenous species, including over 100 orchid species.

Many vegetation communities are represented, ranging from mangroves and saltmarsh through to heaths and open woodlands.

 In the bay, vast beds of sea-grass help to stabilise the mud. Large underwater meadows are important breeding grounds for fish and invertebrates. The meadows in Western Port are among the most extensive along the southern Australian coast. The thickets of white mangrove are believed to be the largest community so far from the Equator.

Animals

French Island supports a large population of the Long-nosed Potoroo, as well as containing the most significant population of koalas in Victoria. The koalas reproduce so successfully that they eat themselves out of house and home. Each year over 200 are transferred to reserves in other parts of Victoria.

Wetlands, mangroves and salt marshes provide spectacular habitat for water birds year round, including the soaring sea eagles. Over 230 bird species have been recorded, as well as 33 species of waders which forage along the coast at low tide.

In the mud-flats, shell-fish, crabs, worms and other small animals provide rich pickings for ibis, herons and egrets. You may also see migratory waders, such as the Eastern Curlew, feeding on Ghost Shrimps and crabs, while the tiny Red-necked Stint searches nearby for worms and small crustaceans. Some birds fly from breeding grounds in the Northern Hemisphere.

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