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The Convention on Wetlands of International Importance holds the unique distinction of being the first modern treaty between nations aimed at conserving natural resources. The signing of the Convention on Wetlands took place in 1971 at the small Iranian town of Ramsar. Since then, the Convention on Wetlands has been known as the Ramsar Convention.

The Ramsar Convention encourages the designation of sites containing representative, rare or unique wetlands, or wetlands that are important for conserving biological diversity. Once designated, these sites are added to the Convention's List of Wetlands of International Importance and become known as Ramsar sites. In designating a wetland as a Ramsar site, countries agree to establish and oversee a management framework aimed at conserving the wetland and ensuring its wise use. Wise use under the Convention is broadly defined as maintaining the ecological character of a wetland. Wetlands can be included on the List of Wetlands of International Importance because of their ecological, botanical, zoological, limnological or hydrological importance.

Ramsar site in the Burdekin Dry Tropics

Bowling Green Bay is the only Ramsar site in the Burdekin Dry Tropics. This site is also listed in the Directory of Important Wetlands in Australia.

The Bowling Green Bay Ramsar site is located 21 km north-east of Ayr, Queensland. The site plays a major role in protection of this area from erosion by cyclones. A diverse complex of coastal wetland systems occur at the site including inter-tidal seagrass beds, mangrove woodlands and saline saltpan communities on the coast, and brackish to freshwater wetlands inland. Extensive areas of forest and woodland, and some closed forest, occur on the mountainous areas and the coastal dune system.

The site has unusually low rainfall for the region, with most rain falling in summer. The heavy storm rains of the summer wet season provide fresh water into the site, reducing the salinities of the shallow inshore marine areas, the surface soils of the saltpans and the mangrove areas.

The Haughton River and many creeks feed into the wetland system. Groundwater is stored in two main aquifers that recharge from direct infiltration over the delta from rainfall, river flow and flood.

Of the 224 birds known to occur in the site, almost half are known to breed within it. The site is an important habitat for about fifty percent of the migratory species listed on international conservation agreements.

The intertidal and subtidal seagrass beds provide feeding habitat for the nationally threatened Green Turtle and the internationally threatened Dugong. Barramundi breed in the freshwater swamps of the site. Saltwater Crocodiles also inhabit the site.

The bulk of the site comprises a portion of Bowling Green Bay National Park. The site is used for conservation and recreation, such as fishing, camping, bushwalking and bird watching. Commercial and recreational harvesting of prawns and Mud Crab also occur within the site.


The Bowling Green Bay Ramsar site meets six of the nine Ramsar criteria:

  • Criterion 1: The Bowling Green Bay Ramsar site is in the North-east Coast Australian Drainage Division. It is a representative of many coastal and seasonal wetlands in the area, but it is particularly significant for its diversity and extent of wetland types.
  • Criterion 2: The Bowling Green Bay Ramsar site provides feeding grounds for the nationally vulnerable Green Turtle. The site also supports Dugong, listed on the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of threatened species as vulnerable. Saltwater Crocodiles also inhabit the site.
  • Criterion 3: Bowling Green Bay is particularly important for the abundance and diversity of bird species. The site regularly supports substantial numbers of all Australian waterbird groups, including post breeding populations of Brolgas and Magpie Geese.
  • Criterion 4: This Ramsar site is of special significance as breeding and feeding habitat for Brolgas and Magpie Geese.
  • Criterion 5: The Bowling Green Bay Ramsar site seasonally supports in excess of 20,000 waterbirds.
  • Criterion 6: The Bowling Green Bay Ramsar site is likely to seasonally support 1% of the total population of the Brolgas.


Related information

Bowling Green Bay Ramsar site
The Bowling Green Bay Ramsar site
Download Ramsar Layer as KML (requires Google Earth)

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Updated NRM information is now held in the NQ Dry Tropics NRM Information Portal at http://nrm.nqdrytropics.com.au/.
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