The Sunshine Coast is a region of incredible natural beauty with a wide range of land- and seascapes supporting an rich variety of ecological communities. Little wonder that the region is a biodiversity hotspot with an unusually high number of plant and animal species at the limits of their distribution including several species that are endemic to the Sunshine Coast.
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The natural environment of the Sunshine Coast
The climate is benign. There are no extremes – winters are mostly dry and mild and summers are the time of most rainfall, which keeps temperatures to a moderate level.
Its natural features are outstanding.
The coastline itself features long stretches of often pristine sandy beaches separated by rocky headlands.
Heading inland, the coastal dunes give way to wallum country. Despite its sandy infertile soil, the wallum is home to a fascinating diversity of animal species and plant life. Springtime in particular is the time to visit, as wildflowers cover the plains with splashes of colour.
Further west is the high country, birthplace of some major rivers. The Maroochy and the Mooloolah Rivers run to the coast while the Mary River, recently spared the humiliation of a major dam, flows north and reaches the ocean at Hervey Bay. The Noosa River rises in low country, most of which is National Park, and is consistently rated as the healthiest in South East Queensland.
The ranges in hinterland – Conondale and Blackall – can be thickly forested, rainforest in many cases, with clear running streams and waterfalls.
The region is bordered to the north by the Great Sandy Region, included on UNESCO’s World Heritage list. The great sand masses of Fraser Island and Cooloola were created by sediment washed from the rivers of the New England tableland and pushed northwards by prevailing south-easterly winds.
To the south is Bribie Island, another great sand mass, separated from the mainland by Pumicestone Passage, listed as a wetland of international significance under the Ramsar Convention. Inland from the Passage are the Glasshouse Mountains, a series of peaks of outstanding scenic value rising abruptly from the coastal plain.
So there’s no shortage of choice for the landscape lover on the Sunshine Coast.
Complex geological processes – including uplifting, volcanos and weathering over many millions of years – were responsible for this diversity.
They also created widely differing soil types, resulting in various vegetation communities, which in turn provided many different habitats for fauna.
Climate too plays a part in the region’s diversity – it’s a transition zone between a subtropical and temperate climate, and so has species of fauna and flora associated with both climate types as well as some found nowhere else
The result: a large number of plant and animal species contained in 84 different types of ecosystems, making the region a biodiversity hotspot. You’ll find more than 800 animal species, including 328 birds and 105 reptiles, and over 1600 species of flora and fungi.
Many of these are species of significance and found nowhere else in the world. A worrying number are rare, threatened or endangered.
Some species, such as the gastric brooding frog, have been lost forever. Others, like the dugong and the ground parrot, can still be sighted, but numbers are at a critical stage. Even the koala is at risk of becoming extinct locally.
Habitat protection offers the best solution to saving our wildlife. Large areas of the Sunshine Coast are gazetted as National Park – the region has more individual parks than any other in Queensland – and there’s a number of conservation parks and State Forest reserves, all helping to maintain habitat and protect species.
However, the Sunshine Coast is one of Australia’s fastest growing regions, and its natural values face the pressures of development as people flock here to live or holiday.
The Sunshine Coast Environment Council, the region’s peak environmental body with over 50 Member Groups, plays a leading role in making sure that a legacy remains for future generations.