Environment

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Victoria's Ninety Mile Beach lies on the edge of a long slender sand dune, thrown up from the sea by the easterly waves and protecting the Gippsland Lakes. Offshore, beneath the water, vast plains of sand stretch in every direction. Yet these areas are not as monotonous as they might first appear as there are local variations. Sand particles are sorted into different groups and layers according to the waves and currents, while there are different surface features, such as mounds and ripples, as a result of animal and wave action.

The fine sands of East Gippsland appear to harbour more animals per square metre than most other marine habitats in the world. This great diversity is derived from the myriad of small creatures that call this area home. Creatures that burrow into the sand build tiny tubes or scurry around eating the scraps of food that may drift by. Larger animals are far fewer in number. To conserve their energy and retain access to oxygenated water, animals like crabs, octopuses, brittle stars and shrimp do not burrow very deep.

There are no rocky headlands or platforms along this coast. Offshore, the sandy plains are only occasionally broken by low ribbons of reef which formed as shorelines or sand dunes during ice-ages when the sea-level was lower than today. Even these reefs are periodically covered by sand, shifted around by the strong tidal currents. These reefs do not support the large brown seaweeds characteristic of many Victorian reefs, but instead are covered by resilient red seaweeds and encrusting animals that can survive the sandy environment. Despite their small size and transient nature, these reefs almost certainly play an important role connecting populations of reef animals from rocky areas around Wilsons Promontory to those of Victoria's far east.

There are plenty of fish too and many feed on the seafloor smorgasbord of tiny animals. Schools of pelagic fish like pike, school whiting and snapper are common and the area appears to be a nursery ground for sharks. Young Great White Sharks can be found in the area chasing snapper, one of their favourite foods.

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