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The coast

Ninety Mile Beach

What are coastal and intertidal shore ecosystems?

Often lashed by the wind laden with salt spray, the coast is very dynamic and a difficult environment for living things, with some of its physical features such as dunes and cliffs subject to continual change. Exposure to the power of large waves generated in the Southern Ocean has produced the rugged, eroded landforms that characterise much of our western coastline. In more sheltered areas there are a wide range of other habitats.

Wind, salt, and unstable low nutrient soils made largely of sand that hold little water are the critical influences on the vegetation of the coast and plant communities growing in these areas have evolved a range of strategies to help them cope with this challenging environment.

Plant communities

Plant communities typically found along the coast are:

  • Coastal Dune Scrub –includes plants well suited to the most exposed section of the coast and include many pioneering dune binding plants such as Hairy Spinifex (Spinifex hirsutus)
  • Coastal Moonah Woodlands – often growing on calcareous dunes and cliffs on the coast dominated by the Coastal Moonah (Melaleuca lanceolata subsp. lanceolata)
  • Coastal Banksia Woodland – restricted to near coastal localities on secondary dunes behind Coastal Dune Scrub, these areas are dominated by a woodland over story of Banksia tees
  • Coastal Saltmarsh – in flatter areas of low energy coastlines some areas are dominated by succulent plants that can cope with high salinity soils and some inundation and exposure to salt water and poor drainage.

Coastal facts

  • Hardy shrubs such as Coast Tea-tree, Coast Beard-heath, Seaberry Saltbush and Coast Wattle occur on secondary dunes or exposed rock headlands
  • Moonah, Boobialla, Drooping She-oak and Coast Banksia are found on the stabilised dunes and swales on the landward side
  • The most prominent group of large coast dwelling animals are birds such as Orange-bellied Parrot and Pied Oystercatcher which depend directly on saltmarsh plants or a wide range of invertebrates (animals without backbones) for food
  • The Little Penguin and Short-tailed Shearwaters (Muttonbirds) nest in burrows in the dunes.


  • Issues related to impacts from increasing visitor use, combined with edge effects from urban development are key threats to this ecosystem.
  • Rising sea levels and greater frequency of storm events due to climate change may impact on vegetation, estuaries as well as coastal assets.

Where do I find the coast and intertidal shores?

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