An Ecological Character Description describes the ecological character of a wetland at the time of its listing as a Wetland of International Importance. Ecological Character Descriptions are a fundamental management tool for site managers, providing the basis for management planning and action as well as including guidance on site monitoring requirements to detect changes in the ecological character of a site.
The East Coast Cape Barren Island Lagoons Ramsar site is located on the eastern shore of Cape Barren Island in the Furneaux Group of islands, Bass Strait, to the north-east of Tasmania. The site is 4473 hectares in size (approximately 10 per cent of the area of Cape Barren Island) and has a maximum elevation of less than 20 metres ASL. The site extends from just north of Tar Point down to Jamieson's Bay, excluding Cape Barren and extends westwards from the coast for a distance varying from 1 to 4 kilometres.
Freehold title to part of Cape Barren Island was vested in the Aboriginal Land Council of Tasmania, on behalf of the Tasmanian Aboriginal community under the Aboriginal Lands Act 1991. Transfer of ownership to the Aboriginal community acknowledged the long association and significant meaning of the area for Indigenous people. A second land transfer of 45,000 hectares in 2005 placed the island fully under Aboriginal ownership. The local Aboriginal community organisation, the Cape Barren Island Aboriginal Association, is the land manager for the Ramsar site.
There is limited information available on the site, particularly on changes to geomorphology, hydrology and vegetation types, which makes an assessment of changes to the ecological character since listing difficult. The lack of data on the site, linked to components, processes or services that describe the ecological character of the Ramsar site, is recognised as a knowledge gap in the ECD and recommended monitoring requirements and actions are prioritised in the document.
However, based on the remoteness and relatively undisturbed nature of the site, it is considered that the site has largely remained unchanged since the time of listing in 1982 and has retained its ecological character.
The ECD will help inform and guide future management planning, data collection and threat abatement in the East Coast Cape Barren Island Lagoons Ramsar site and assist in preserving the uniquely natural state of the site.
Further information on what Ecological Character Descriptions are and how critical components, processes and services are identified is available in the National Framework and Guidance for Describing the Ecological Character of Australian Ramsar Wetlands – Module 2 of the National Guidelines for Ramsar Wetlands – Implementing the Ramsar Convention in Australia.