Coral reefs have been around for millions of years!

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Mangroves matter!

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Mudflats are amazing recyclers!

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Coral reefs have been around for millions of years!

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The hidden homes and restaurants of Gladstone's Big 6!


Gladstone is a place of great biodiversity where dozens of different ecosystems interact to provide habitat — food, water or shelter — for hundreds of different plants and animals, humans included!

These habitats can be broken up into four different categories: terrestrial, freshwater, marine and estuarine.

  • Terrestrial habitats are found on land and include places like forests, grasslands, deserts, shorelines and wetlands.

  • Freshwater habitats include places like bogs, ponds, lakes, rivers and streams,

  • Marine habitats include coral reefs and seagrass meadows found in the ocean.

  • Estuarine habitats are where freshwater and marine habitats meet and the fresh water from rivers and streams mixes with the salty water of the ocean.


Next time you’re travelling around Gladstone stop and think about the type of habitat you’re in and how it works with the other ecosystems of the city!


Check out the different habitats pages, and use what you've learned with the crossword or the word search on the activities page!

The quiet achiever of ecosystems


Do you like fish and chips? Or prawns at Easter? Then you should be mad for mudflats!

Nearly 70 per cent of the shellfish and fish species humans eat depend on mudflats for at least part of their lifecycle.

Like mangroves, mudflats exist in intertidal zones where they are exposed to the air at low tide and covered by water at high tide.


Mudflats are made up of tiny particles of soil and sand that are left behind when the tide flows out and these tightly packed particles are perfect at blocking oxygen from getting into the ground. This damp, oxygen-poor environment is brilliant for the reproduction of bacteria and algae that cover the top of the mudflats and grow by capturing the sun’s energy.

These bacteria and algae are food for smaller marine animals like crabs and worms, which in turn are food for bigger animals like shorebirds and fish — what an amazing ecosystem!

Mudflats are sensitive to chemicals which can contaminate the mud and kill the animals that live on or in it. Whenever you are watering the garden or washing the car, remember that all drains lead to the ocean — and so does whatever you wash down them.

Mangroves are environmental superheroes!

Mangroves are found in intertidal areas where they are exposed to the air at low tide and covered by water at high tide. There have been 15 different species of mangrove identified in Gladstone and they are found in areas throughout Port Curtis.


These trees may just look like muddy, smelly places full of sandflies and mosquitoes — which they are — but they also:

  • act as nurseries and feeding grounds for other plants and animals (including the Big6!)

  • protect the coastline and riverbanks from erosion

  • protect the reef and improve water quality by trapping sediment.

Mangroves are so important to the overall environment that the Queensland Government has laws in place that make it illegal to damage any part of a mangrove.​

If you are fishing or crabbing from a boat and are around mangroves, be mindful of where you drop anchor. Mangroves breathe through special above-ground roots (called pneumatophores) and damaging these roots can kill the mangrove and cost you a hefty fine!

​Good for more than just summer holidays!


Sandy beaches aren’t just a playground for humans in summer — they’re home to millions of macrofauna and meiofauna all year round.

These beach-dwelling invertebrates love to hang out in the particles of rock and calcium carbonate that make up the white sand of our beaches.

Macrofauna are invertebrates larger than one millimetre and include creatures like crabs, pippies and worms. To see meiofauna you’ll need a microscope — these organisms are smaller than half a millimetre and look like tiny worms and crabs.

Sandy beaches do more than just support our tiny invertebrate friends. They filter and purify seawater and rainwater runoff, protect the coastline from waves, and provide habitat for nesting sea turtles and shorebirds.

Sandy beaches are shaped by the movement of wind and tide — they don’t need your help! You can fight beach erosion by doing the smart thing and leaving dune vegetation alone and only driving on approved 4WD beaches.

A dugong and a turtle swim up to a seagrass meadow...

Don’t let the name fool you, seagrasses aren’t really grass — they’re flowering plants! These underwater plants mostly grow in shallow waters where they can take in lots of sunlight.


Seagrass plays an important role in the aquatic food chain as patches of seagrass (called meadows) act as nurseries for young fish, crabs and prawns, while the plants themselves are the sole source of food for the dugong. Seagrass also makes up a large part of the diet of other animals like sea turtles.  

Because seagrasses grow in shallow waters, they are very vulnerable to damage from boat propellers and anchors — especially at low tide.

Stick to signed speed limits when on the water and keep an eye out for a muddy trail behind your boat — if you see one, you are probably cutting seagrass with your propeller!

​Nature's way

The world is filled with some amazing, inspiring and sometimes gross natural processes that help to maintain or rebalance ecosystems from time to time.

Four of the natural processes you may see around Gladstone are turbidity, coral spawning, seagrass flowering or a marine algal bloom.

  • Marine algal blooms are large, brightly coloured patches of algae that float on top of the water and usually occur along Queensland’s coastline from August to September. These patches have a milky or slick appearance, but don’t worry — they aren’t oil spills!

  • Coral spawning is one of the ways corals reproduce and occurs when corals simultaneously release their eggs and sperm into the ocean.


Seagrass flowering is a similar process in which male seagrasses release pollen into ocean currents to moves with the waves until it drifts past and fertilises a female seagrass flower.

Turbidity is perhaps the most common and visible natural process and is a term used to describe how clear the water is. Turbidity is caused by various bits of matter floating in the water column – and the more of these particles there are the murkier, or more turbid, the water is.

In Gladstone Harbour, tides and tidal ranges have a big influence on turbidity. A strong tidal current can lift up (or resuspend) fine sediment (dirt, rocks and sand) from the ocean floor giving the water a dirty appearance.


Click here for the crossword solution


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