Aquatic ecosystems

Coastal marine

Coastal marine ecosystems occur along the coastline. These coastal waters extend from the lowest tide mark onshore, to about 6 kilometres offshore.

Habitats include:


Open waters

Coastal waters off the Gold Coast are typically an expanse of open sea above a sandy seabed.


Local waters are not warm enough for coral reefs, so only rocky reefs occur naturally. Artificial reefs have also been constructed. From north to south, our reefs include: Greta's Reef, Narrowneck Reef (artificial), Mermaid Reef, Palm Beach Bait Reef, Palm Beach Reef (artificial) and Kirra Reef.


  • Recreation – swimming, surfing, offshore fishing, snorkelling and diving, boating
  • Tourism and business – commercial fishing, whale watching
  • Natural reefs protect our coastline, artificial reefs are constructed for coastal protection
  • Provide habitat – humpback whales migrate between their feeding grounds in Antarctica waters and the tropical waters of the north where they give birth. They are home to fish such as yellowtail kingfish, schools of Australian anchovies, white-spotted eagle ray and other sea life, including sharks, stingrays, sea turtles and dolphins. Marine ecosystems are the feeding grounds for many sea birds such as albatrosses and petrels. Reefs support a great diversity of life, even single-celled algae.

Marine environments are managed by the Queensland Government.



Estuarine aquatic ecosystems are water bodies in coastal areas. This is where rivers and other sources of fresh water meet and mix with marine water. Water in estuarine environments is brackish (a mix of salt and freshwater which is influenced by ocean tides).

Local estuarine habitats include:

  • The Broadwater – a series of tidal channels to the north and across southern Moreton Bay. It is separated from the ocean at the southern end by The Spit. The Broadwater is a relatively new coastal landform that was stabilised with the construction of the Gold Coast seaway.
  • Constructed lakes and canal systems – 135 lakes and 400 kilometres of constructed canal systems
  • Natural estuarine lakes – Coombabah Lake
  • River mouths and the lower reaches of rivers – Tallebudgera and Currumbin Creeks
  • Coastal creeks and streams – Flat Rock Creek, Coolangatta Creek, Loders Creek
  • Seagrass beds – occur within intertidal and subtidal areas of the Broadwater, Tallebudgera and Currumbin Creeks.


  • Recreation – swimming, fishing, boating and paddle sports
  • Canal and lakeside living
  • Commercial fishing – estuarine waters are a link between fresh and marine environments. Many species move between the two for activities such as spawning, nursing young, seeking refuge or feeding. This includes commercial species such as Australian bass and sea mullet.
  • Provides habitat
  • Rare, threatened, and notable plants and animals include:
    - sea turtles and visiting dugong feed on seagrass meadows
    - a resident community of Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins can regularly be seen feeding on a variety of fish species including mullet, bream and whiting
    - Australian Humpback Dolphins are occasional visitors to the Broadwater
    - Coombabah Lake is a declared Fish Habitat Area.


Freshwater aquatic ecosystems are water bodies predominantly at a distance from the coast. They are not influenced by marine tides. They can be natural or artificial. Local freshwater habitats include:

  • Freshwater waterways – they often connect to various types of wetlands and other aquatic environments. Major rivers include Albert, Logan, Coomera and Nerang Rivers as well as upper reaches of Tallebudgera and Currumbin Creeks.
  • Freshwater lakes – we manage over 80 fresh water lakes.
  • Dams – Hinze, Little Nerang and Tallebudgera Creek Dams, as well as private dams.


  • Provides recreation such as swimming, fishing and boating
  • Water and lakeside living
  • Water supply such as Hinze Dam
  • Provides habitat for:
    • aquatic plants including azolla, ribbon weed, hydrilla, Queensland lace plant, snowflake lily, giant swamp lily and swamp lily
    • water birds such as herons, cormorants, egrets, ducks, grebes, coots and moorhens
    • at least 37 species of freshwater fish
    • platypus, freshwater turtles
    • approximately 29 species of damselflies and 56 species of dragonflies
    • countless water bugs.