Towra Point Nature Reserve

Towra Point Nature Reserve

Towra Point Nature Reserve is a nature reserve of convert|603.3|ha in southern Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.cite web|title=List of all parks & reserves in NSW|url=|accessdate=2008-04-23|date=2008-04-23|work=NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service website|publisher=NSW DECC] It is located on the southern shores of Botany Bay at Kurnell, within the Sutherland Shire. It is a Ramsar site (or wetland of international importance), as it is an important breeding ground for many vulnerable, protected, or endangered species. There is also a Towra Point Aquatic Nature Reserve in the surrounding waterways.


Kurnell was inhabited by the Dharawal people, and there are three middens and one relic that still remain today at the Towra Point Nature Reserve. Captain Cook mapped Botany Bay when he landed in 1770, including Towra Point. Early European colonisers ran horses and cattle on Towra Point, despite the poor condition of the land for such a purpose. In 1861, Thomas Holt bought Towra Point, and divided it into paddocks for grazing or growing corn. Sheep grazing was particularly disastrous, and many thousands of sheep died of footrot and are buried at Towra Point. In the late 1870s, Thomas Holt began oyster farming at Weeney Bay in Towra Point. During World War II, a radar station was established, and a causeway built. [ [ Historical Maps Collection: Botany Bay, by Cook (State Library of Queensland) ] ] [ [ Towra Point Nature Reserve ] ]

In the 1960s, movements were made to preserve Towra Point - Tom Uren, the then Federal Minister for Urban Affairs, was instrumental in this process. [ [ National Parks Journal - biodiversity legislation ] ] The reserve was bought by the Commonwealth in 1975, attempting to fulfill obligations to JAMBA, which would come into force in April 1981. In 1982, Towra Point was officially made a nature reserve. It was declared a Ramsar site (or wetland of international importance) in 1984. In 1987, the Towra Point Aquatic Nature Reserve was created, covering 1400 ha in the waterways surrounding Towra Point. Towra Point Nature Reserve also attempts to meet the Federal government's obligations to CAMBA, which came into force in 1988. The Friends of Towra Point volunteer group was founded in February 1997 and they do such activities as bush regeneration, seed collection, vegetation surveys and habitat creation for the Little Tern. They also coordinate the annual Clean Up Australia Day activities at Towra Point. Habitat creation involves sandbagging the eroding Towra Lagoon, nest tagging, and clearing areas around nests. []


Towra Point, an ancient river delta deposit, has many distinct habitats - these diverse habitats are part of why Towra Point is a Ramsar site. The habitats of the Reserve are:
*salt marshes
*littoral rainforests
*turpentine forests


Towra Point Nature Reserve is home to many endangered, vulnerable, protected and exotic species. This list is from the National Parks and Wildlife Service website - a comprehensive listing, including numbers, scientific names, and protection status, can be found at this link. [ [ NPWS - Atlas of NSW Wildlife ] ]


*Yellow Thornbill
*Brown Thornbill
*Striated Fieldwren
*Chestnut-rumped Heathwren
*Mangrove Gerygone
*Brown Gerygone
*White-browed Scrubwren
*Brown Goshawk
*Grey Goshawk
*Swamp Harrier
*White-bellied Sea-Eagle
*Chestnut Teal
*Australasian Shoveler
*Black Swan
*Australian Shelduck
*Oriental Darter
*Great Egret
*Cattle Egret
*Intermediate Egret
*Little Egret
*White-faced Heron
*Eastern Reef Egret
*Grey Butcherbird
*Pied Currawong
*Bush Stone-curlew
*Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike
*Double-banded Plover
*Greater Sand Plover
*Pacific Golden Plover
*Grey Plover
*White-throated Treecreeper
*Bar-shouldered Dove
*Australian Raven
*Fan-tailed Cuckoo
*Shining Bronze-Cuckoo
*Spangled Drongo
*Leaden Flycatcher
*Grey Fantail
*Willie Wagtail
*Red-browed Finch
*Australian Hobby
*Peregrine Falcon
*Sooty Oystercatcher
*Australian Pied Oystercatcher
*Sacred Kingfisher
*Welcome Swallow
*Silver Gull
*Little Tern
*Crested Tern
*Caspian Tern
*Arctic Tern
*Superb Fairy-wren
*Variegated Fairy-wren
*Southern Emu-wren
*Eastern Spinebill
*Little Wattlebird
*White-fronted Chat
*Brown Honeyeater
*New Holland Honeyeater
*Australian Pipit
*Eurasian Blackbird
*Grey Shrike-thrush
*Rufous Whistler
*Spotted Pardalote
*Australian Pelican
*Eastern Yellow Robin
*Little Pied Cormorant
*Pied Cormorant
*Stubble Quail
*Hoary-headed Grebe
*Blue-winged Parrot
*Eastern Rosella
*Crimson Rosella
*Red-whiskered Bulbul
*Lewin's Rail
*Sharp-tailed Sandpiper
*Curlew Sandpiper
*Great Knot
*Bar-tailed Godwit
*Eastern Curlew
*Little Curlew
*Common Greenshank
*Common Starling
*Golden-headed Cisticola
*Royal Spoonbill
*Australian White Ibis
*Painted Button-quail
*Whistling Kite
*Striated Heron
*Australian Magpie
*Sulphur-crested Cockatoo
*Masked Lapwing
*Restless Flycatcher
*Kelp Gull
*Yellow-faced Honeyeater
*Lewin's Honeyeater
*White-naped Honeyeater
*Olive-backed Oriole
*Golden Whistler
*House Sparrow
*Rose Robin
*Tawny Frogmouth
*Rainbow Lorikeet
*Southern Boobook
*Common Myna
*Tawny Grassbird
*Masked Owl


*Green and Golden Bell Frog
*Keferstein's Tree Frog
*Common Eastern Froglet
*Striped Marsh Frog


*House Mouse
*Brown Rat
*Black Rat
*Common Brushtail Possum
*Grey-headed Flying Fox
*Lesser Long-eared Bat
*Greater Broad-nosed Bat
*Little Forest Bat


*Jacky Lashtail
*Eastern Snake-necked Turtle
*Red-Bellied Black Snake
*Eastern Small-eyed Snake
*Black-bellied Swamp Snake
*Dark-flecked Garden Sunskink
*Pale-flecked Garden Sunskink
*Yellow-bellied Three-toed Skink
*Eastern Bluetongue


*Grey Mangrove
*Swamp Oak
*Native Wandering Jew
*Tree Broom-heath
*Coffee Bush
*Wombat Berry
*Port Jackson Fig/Rusty Fig
*Cockspur Thorn
*Swamp Paperbark
*Broad-leaved Paperbark
*Pixie Caps
*Sweet Pittosporum
*Pampas Grass
*Panic Veldtgrass
*Rambling Dock
*Coastal Banksia
*Slender Grape

Human effects

Humans can affect ecosystems both positively and negatively.

Positive effects

Humans can maximise the area of healthy, functioning intertidal wetlands by minimising their impacts and by developing management strategies that protect, and where possible rehabilitate these ecosystems at risk.

The following are positive ways of trying to protect or rehabilitate intertidal wetlands.
* Exclusion – Those responsible for the management of wetland areas often facilitate public access to a small, designated area while restricting access to other areas. Provision of defined boardwalks and walkways is a management strategy used to restrict access to vulnerable areas, as is the issuing of permits whilst visiting Towra Point Nature Reserve.
* Education – In the past, wetlands were regarded as waste-lands. Education campaigns have helped to change public perceptions and foster public support for the wetlands. Due to their location in the water catchment area, education programs need to teach about total catchment management programs. Educational programs include guided tours for the general public, school visits, media liaison, information centres, conference presentations, interpretive signage, publications and facts sheets. Staff should also include education officers.
* Action – too little is known about the intertidal wetland system to successfully reinstate all natural conditions. Management plans focus on the rehabilitation of the site and the removal of human-induced stresses. For example, fox and rabbit baiting, removal of weeds (at Weedy Pond).
* Design – Design interventions have proved successful in minimising sources of natural stress. At Towra Point Beach, for example, there is a sandbag wall to help prevent salt water from leaking into the fresh-water Towra Lagoon.
*LegislationLegislation and regulations are used to protect Towra Point Wetlands. Conventions that Australia has signed in regard to Towra Point Wetlands are the Ramsar Convention, the Japan Australia Migratory Bird Agreement (JAMBA) and the China Australia Migratory Bird Agreement (CAMBA). Legislation that Australia and New South Wales has passed in regard to Towra Point Wetlands are the Wetlands Policy (federal govt.), the New South Wales Wetlands Management Policy (state govt. 1996) and the State and Environmental Planning Policy 14 on Coastal Wetlands.

Negative effects

* Changed wind patterns due to high-rise near some wetland areas e.g. Bicentennial Park.
* Alteration of water flows through construction of roads.
* Removal of resources for urban and industrial land uses. These also increase turbidity and toxins in the water supplied to mangroves. (The removal can also result in changed energy flows and nutrient cycles, affecting food chains for both sedentary and migratory fauna)
* Replacement of wetland areas for parks, playing fields or pasture.
* Destruction of sea grasses in areas adjoining wetlands can affect energy flows and nutrient cycles as species levels will be affected.
* Introduction of exotic species e.g. foxes, rabbits, sheep, cattle, pigs. – change energy flows and nutrient cycles. Birds are particularly affected, for example the Little Tern.
* Indirect influences from adjacent sites e.g. weed infestation (lantana – Towra Point) – carried into the wetlands by horses from the nearby stables.
* Trampling – from illegal access
* Threat of oil spills - Kurnell refinery near Towra Point
*Recreational horse-riding on the Reserve and unsupervised recreational use of the Reserve (eg. dog walking)
*Boating - disturbs wildlife in the park, and creates pollution.
*Fishing - kills fish, which affects the food chains operating within the Reserve.
*Erosion of Towra Beach due to wave refraction from the Sydney Airport runway which causes the freshwater Towra Point Lagoon to become saline
*Fragmentation of the Reserve by private land ownership
*Bay development in general, including the Sydney Airport runway and the oil refinery. There have also been concerns that the recently shelved desalinisation plant would have impacted negatively on the Reserve.
*Illegal rubbish dumping has occurred both in the Reserve and near the entrance. In late 2004, a large amount of dumped asbestos was discovered. [ Ramsar factsheet (PDF)]

Management of the reserve


The traditional objectives for the management of wetland areas were built around the use of wetland resources for food, shelter and tools. Grey Mangrove wood, for example, was used to make shields, shells were made into fishing hooks; and marine animals were used for food.


*Identify management goals and objectives: Today management plans for wetlands focus on the preservation and sustainable use of sites for recreation, conservation and education purposes. This may involve some exclusion zones but many areas are open to recreational and educational activities.
*Define management unit and boundaries: The “management unit” for many intertidal wetlands is often difficult to define because of the large number of stakeholders. For example the Towra Point wetland has input from National Parks and Wildlife Service (New South Wales), NSW Fisheries, Sutherland Shire Council, Friends of Towra Point and recreational users.
*Develop and implement management plans: An intertidal wetland is a dynamic system. As our knowledge of ecosystems has increased community attitudes have changed. Communities are now demanding that these ecosystems are protected and effectively managed.

Care has been taken to develop management plans that are both realistic and flexible. They need to take into account scientific and technological advances, changing social and political attitudes and variations in the level of funding.Management plans also need to be consistent with Australia’s international obligations (most pertinently JAMBA, CAMBA and RAMSAR). [ Download the current Plan of Management for Towra Point Nature Reserve (PDF)]


External links

* [ Sutherland Shire Environment Centre - Towra Point] (the virtual tour is excellent)
* [ National Parks]
* [ Sydney University Excursion]
* [ NSW Fisheries - Towra Point Aquatic Nature Reserve]

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