Coastal vegetation and sand dunes

Our coastal landscape is the backdrop to life in Moreton Bay. It is rich in cultural heritage, provides recreation opportunities, attracts visitors and tourists and is part of a unique natural environment.

Most of our coastline is part of the Moreton Bay Marine Park, which is internationally recognised and protected under the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands. The Redcliffe Peninsula, Bribie Island and Moreton Island are also nesting areas for the endangered Loggerhead turtle.

Native vegetation plays an important role in stabilising our coastal landscapes by protecting sand dunes from wind erosion. Vegetation can also trap windblown sand to help build up the dunes and provides food or habitat for native animals and migratory birds(PDF, 5MB)

The importance of coastal vegetation

Coastal vegetation plays an important role in protecting sand dunes:

  • Primary vegetation, such as grasses and creepers found in the incipient dune, can trap sand to build up dunes and reduce the extent of beach erosion
  • Secondary vegetation, such as shrubs and small trees help to stabilise the foredune and deflect the wind up and over the foredune
  • Tertiary vegetation, such as taller shrubs and trees found in the hind dune, further elevate the wind and provide protection for inland plants
  • Root systems help stabilise and secure sand to reduce the likelihood and extent of erosion during extreme weather events
  • Sand that builds up around vegetation can help replenish the beach after sudden erosion events
  • Native coastal vegetation can tolerate high winds, salt spray and sand blasting
  • Vegetation provides food or nesting areas for animals and migratory birds.

Graphic showing the role of dune vegetation

Healthy, stable sand dunes are essential to protect both our sandy beaches and built infrastructure such as homes and roads.

You can help protect sand dunes and coastal vegetation

Council and the Queensland Government continually monitor and manage our coastal areas, but there are things we can all do to help protect our coastal landscapes.

If you live near or are visiting our coastal areas, you can:

  • Leave driftwood and fallen branches on the beach or dunes where you found it. Fallen timber plays an important role in stabilising dunes.
  • Don’t light fires on the beach near dune vegetation. It could start a wildfire that damages a large area of dune vegetation.
  • Stick to the designated beach access tracks and stay off dune vegetation. The roots of coastal grasses are very sensitive and easily damaged by trampling.
  • Don’t drive on dunes and dune vegetation. Stick to the designated 4WD beach access areas.
  • Consider joining a Bushcare group. Council manages several bushcare groups with members helping in hands-on conservation and restoration activities.  For more information about bushcare see - Voluntary conservation - Moreton Bay Regional Council

If you are fortunate enough to own property on the Moreton Bay coastline you can:

  • Plant appropriate native vegetation to help stabilise dune areas. The following are examples of suitable species for the Moreton Bay region coastline. Talk to a specialist native plant nursery for more advice.
    • Native grasses and ground covers: beach spinifex (Spinifex seiceus), sand couch (Sporobolus virginicus), stalky grass (Lepturus repens), coastal jack bean (Canavalia rosea) or desert spurge (Euphorbia tannensis)
    • Shrubs and trees: coastal she-oak (Casuarina equisetifolia subsp. Incana), swamp she-oak (Casuarina glauca) or broad-leaved tea-tree (Melaleuca viridiflora)
  • Avoid planting turf in the dune area. Turf cannot trap windblown sand or withstand excessive salt spray. When stressed, the turf will die and leave bare sand, which is more prone to wind erosion.
  • Plant only native species in your garden. Exotic plants complete with native dune vegetation and could potentially spread as environmental weeds.
  • Dispose of garden waste properly. Do not dump green waste in the dunes as it can spread weeds and supress the growth of native dune plants.
  • Maintain trees and shrubs on the foredune area. While they may block your view, they also provide protection to your property by helping to stabilise the sand dunes and reduce erosion.
  • For more information visit Coastal Management in Queensland.

Environmental vandalism

Damaging coastal vegetation is environmental vandalism. It impacts the stability of sand dunes and their important role in our coastal environment. If an area of vegetation is damaged or removed, it makes that area more susceptible to erosion. This can lead to a ‘blow out’ or gap in the dune. This gap can quickly grow and erode the rest of the dune system, impacting nearby properties and infrastructure.

Environmental vandalism in coastal landscapes includes:

  • Cutting off trees at the base of the trunk
  • Cutting or breaking branches off
  • Breaking the tops of younger trees off
  • Pulling out or poisoning newly planted trees (such as revegetation projects)
  • Drilling or poisoning of older trees
  • Clearing of trees and vegetation with machinery
  • Mowing over smaller trees

Damaging coastal vegetation increases the impacts of storm damage and erosion and reduces the resilience of coastal communities to extreme weather. Ratepayers and residents incur increased costs to manage these risks and impacts. It also removes habitat for native animals and migratory birds and increases light pollution impacts on nesting turtles.

Coastal changes

Change to our coastal landscape has been and will continue to be a natural characteristic of our environment. Natural processes of erosion and accretion - the movement of sand on our coastline - means our foreshore areas are always changing.

Erosion may be the result of a long-term process or a sudden event. Long term erosion is a continuous process where sand is removed from one part of the coastline over time, and may be deposited (or accreted) in another part of the coastline. This will result in long term changes to both areas of the coast. Extreme events such as severe storms may cause rapid erosion of parts of the coastline. This type of erosion is usually short-term with natural processes restoring the beach over the following months or years.

Changes to the natural environment such as clearing vegetation, constructing seawalls, roads or buildings, or interfering with natural sand movements by dredging or depositing additional sand can all affect natural coastal change processes.