Values of Country

country-vision.jpgCultural Values:

  • Holistic land and sea cultural landscape
  • Sacred sites and Dreaming tracks
  • Many totemic animal and plant species
  • Country provides food and other important resources
  • Scenic landscape is iconic backdrop to Cairns

Environmental Values:

  • World Heritage listed
  • Vine forest, sclerophyll forest, mangroves, seagrass
  • 8 endangered & 17 "of concern" regional ecosystems

Plants and Animals:

  • 479 plants species (17 "of concern", 6 "vulnerable")
  • 220 animal species (18 "of concern")
  • 5 mammals, 105 fish, 7 amphibians, 17 reptiles,
  • 82 birds (17 migratory species)

Environmental Values

Mandingalbay Yidinji Country extends from Bessie Point on Trinity Bay in the north to Mutchero Inlet and Russell Heads in the south. Mandingalbay Yidinji sea country extends east into the Coral Sea and includes the islands of the Frankland Group (Appendix 1). The Mandingalbay Yidinji People also share an interest with neighbouring groups in resource use areas extending beyond these boundaries. Mandingalbay Yidinji Country has great natural diversity. It includes tidal flats around Trinity Inlet, the Malbon Thompson Range, beaches and headlands on the Coral Sea coast and continental islands with sand spits and fringing reefs.

The area has a tropical climate with a pronounced summer wet season. Mean temperatures range from 21.4oC in July to 27.6oC in January (Bureau of Meteorology, 2009). Rainfall ranges from 2400 mm per year at East Trinity Reserve to over 4800 mm per year on the Malbon Thompson Range around Bell Peak North and Bell Peak South.

Topography of Mandingalbay Yidinji Country is variable. The Malbon Thompson Range and associated foothills comprise more than half of the land area of Mandingalbay Yidinji Country; high points include May Peak (834 m), Grey Peaks (644 m), Bell Peak North (1026 m) and Bell Peak South (939 m). Mandingalbay Yidinji Country includes coastal swamps and plains on the eastern side of Trinity Inlet and in two areas on the east (Coral Sea) coast; one area is east of Grey Peaks National Park and the other is north of Mutchero Inlet. The Frankland Group consists of six continental islands (High, Normanby, Mabel, Round, Russell and "East Russell"); High Island is the largest and tallest, rising to 159 m. Sand spits extend from Normanby and Russell islands, and there are extensive fringing reefs surrounding the islands.

The Malbon Thompson Range consists of granite and granodiorite from the late Permian and early Triassic periods (about 250 million years ago). There are areas of alluvial and colluvial deposits along the base of the range. Trinity Inlet and adjoining mangrove areas are comprised of estuarine silt and mud from the Holocene period (last 10 000 years). The coastal plains on the Coral Sea coast are Quaternary (last 1.8 million years); they consist of alluvium nearer the base of the Malbon Thompson Range, and coastal dune systems and sand sheets adjacent to the coast. The Frankland Group islands are outcrops of Cambrian (490­­­–545 million years old) sediment, altered by heat and pressure into green and white metamorphic rock. The islands were once connected to the mainland, but were separated by heavy weathering and a rise in sea level (DERM 2009B).

More than 80 % of the land area is uncleared and included within the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area or the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area (Frankland Group). Areas outside the protected area estate includes cane fields along the Yarrabah road and cleared and degraded areas in and surrounding East Trinity Reserve.

Approximately half of Mandingalbay Yidinji Country lies within protected areas. It contains Grey Peaks National Park, the Frankland Group National Park, Malbon Thompson Forest Reserve, East Trinity Reserve and Giangurra Reserve (managed by Cairns Regional Council), and parts of Trinity Forest Reserve, the Trinity Inlet Fish Habitat area and Great Barrier Reef Coast Marine Park. Additionally, Mandingalbay Yidinji sea country is within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park (Commonwealth) and the overlapping Great Barrier Reef Coast Marine Park (State).

Scenic landscape values

Mandingalbay Yidinji Country contains high scenic values – one of the criteria for which the Wet Tropics bioregion is listed as a World Heritage Area. The Malbon Thompson Range presents a rugged, forested backdrop to the southern urban areas of Cairns, the Bruce Highway and surrounding areas. Trinity Inlet and adjoining mangrove communities provide a largely natural landscape extending close to the Cairns central business district. The Coral Sea coast of Mandingalbay Yidinji Country appears rugged and largely undisturbed when viewed from the sea. The beaches, rock faces and rainforest of the Frankland Group islands rise in strong contrast to surrounding open waters. Despite their popularity for visitors, there is little evidence of human disturbance on the islands when viewed from the sea.

Key Coastal sites and areas of state significance

The Mandingalbay Yidinji IPA incorporates components of the following two Key Coastal Sites identified in the Wet Tropics Regional Coastal Management Plan (Queensland Environment Protection Agency 20031: Malbon Thompson Key Coastal Site Trinity Inlet Key Coastal Site (see map below).

The Malbon Thompson Key Coastal Site comprises three Key Coastal Localities, two of which lie within the Mandingalbay Yidinji IPA: Russell Heads North (Key Coastal Locality 9.1) and Western Malbon Thompson Range (Key Coastal Locality 9.3).

Russell Heads North (Key Coastal Locality 9.1)

Key natural values include:

  • A well-developed dune/swale system is associated with 'of concern' and endangered regional ecosystems between Russell heads and palmer point. This system includes intact complex mesophyll vine forest;
  • This locality is ranked as one of the most outstanding and diverse areas of the Wet Tropics lowlands. It contains a unique assemblage of vegetation communities and many rare and threatened species, such as swamp orchids, beach stone-curlews and a substantial southern cassowary population;
  • The dune/swale wetland forms part of the Russell River Wetland and the entire locality is in the Wet Tropics World heritage Area. The wetland, including the associated endangered regional ecosystems and vegetated dune system are Areas of State Significance. The wetland provides an important nutrient trap and filter for the water draining from the southern end of the Malbon Thompson Ranger to the coast;
  • The area has wilderness values and high scientific importance associated with its high natural integrity – it provides possibly the only remaining opportunity within the Wet Tropics bioregion to ensure conservation of a significant freshwater wetland.

Western Malbon Thompson Range (Key Coastal Locality 9.3)

Key natural values include:

  • The rugged ranges have high scenic values and contain part of the western watershed of the Malbon Thompson and Murray Prior ranges, which is a significant catchment for the Mulgrave River and Trinity Inlet. The ranges have high natural integrity and are vegetated with a mix of communities dominated by complex mesophyll vine forest with subordinate notophyll vine forests and woodlands. These forest contain 'of concern' ecosystems.
  • The locality contains important southern cassowary habitat. Together with the eastern slopes of the Malbon Thompson Range, this locality has the most extensive examples of vine forest with eucalypts and acacias in the region and contains the largest surviving remnant mesophyll vine forest in the Wet Tropics bioregion.
  • Seagrass beds in the protected bays and Sturt Cove support dugong and marine turtles. Irrawaddy and indo-Pacific humpback dolphins are found in the inshore area.

Trinity Inlet (Key Coastal Site 10)

The Port of cairns and Trinity Inlet Wetland is listed and described on the Register of the National Estate and in the Directory of Important Wetlands in Australia (1996). Key values of Trinity inlet include:.

  • The Inlet is a remarkable landform of about 11klm long and 6 km wide, comprised of a natural embayment cradled between coastal ranges – a combination of habitats unique in Queensland.
  • Sediment from the Barron River is delivered at an estimated rate of 38,000 cubic metres annually, providing an outstanding example of coastal accretion in the wet Tropics bioregion that is of particular importance as a record of recent sedimentation and coastal evolution in this region.
  • Trinity Inlet's outstanding biodiversity and high natural integrity provides significant conservation values. Melaleuca open woodland, a range of mangrove communities, seagrass beds, salt marshes and tidal mudflats provide important habitat for rare and threatened plant and animal species. The mangrove forests have a greater variety of habitat and species richness that other tidal wetlands in far north Queensland.
  • The inlet's wetlands are largely intact and support large populations of birds, fish and prawns. The inlet provides habitat for migratory wading birds, including species of national significance. Much of the inlet has been declared a Fish habitat Area in recognition in recognition of the importance of the mangrove forests, freshwater wetlands and mudflats, which function as nurseries for juvenile fish and provide important habitat for estuarine crocodiles.
  • Trinity inlet has extensive seagrass beds and is one of only two major seagrass areas between Hinchinbrook Island and Cooktown.

Web reference:

Native Vegetation

Regional ecosystems

Mandingalbay Yidinji Country lies within the Wet Tropics bioregion. It contains a diverse range of regional ecosystems and is an important refuge for endangered and of concern regional ecosystems. The mainland section of Mandingalbay Yidinji Country contains 41 mapped regional ecosystems (Appendix 2 and 3). Under the Vegetation Management Act 1999, which takes into account the pre-clearing and remaining areas of a regional ecosystem, eight of these regional ecosystems are endangered and 17 are of concern. Under DERM's Biodiversity Status, which additionally takes into account the condition of regional ecosystems, 17 of these regional ecosystems are endangered and 17 are of concern. The most extensive regional ecosystem in the area is mesophyll to notophyll vine forest on granite (RE 7.12.1a, Appendix 3). It covers over 25 % of the area, occurring mainly on the foothills and lower slopes of the Malbon Thompson Range. This regional ecosystem is not of concern. Simple notophyll vine forest on granite uplands (RE 7.12.16a, Appendix 3) is the next most prevalent regional ecosystem, covering over 5 % of the area. It is the dominant ecosystem along the crest of the Malbon Thompson Range. This regional ecosystem is also not of concern.

Pre-clearing vegetation mapping indicates a further three regional ecosystems formerly occurred near the Yarrabah road in an area now cleared for sugar cane (Appendix 4). These were:

  • mangrove and vine forest in brackish areas (RE 7.1.4, Appendix 3)
  • broad-leaved tea tree (Melaleuca viridiflora) open forest to open woodland on poorly drained alluvial plains (RE 7.3.8, Appendix 3)
  • Clarkson's bloodwood (Corymbia clarksoniana) open forest to open woodland on alluvial plains (RE 7.3.45, Appendix 3).

Changes in the boundaries between individual regional ecosystems have not generally been well-documented. Mangroves (RE 7.1.1, Appendix 3) are expanding in the northern part of Mandingalbay Yidinji Country. Between 1950 and 1992, approximately 180 ha of tidal flats off Bessie Point were colonised by mangroves, probably due to sediment accumulation (Environmental Science Services 1992). Some sclerophyll regional ecosystems on the Malbon Thompson Range have very well developed vine forest understoreys, probably due to infrequent burning (DERM 2009D). These include pink bloodwood (Corymbia intermedia) open forest (RE 7.12.23b, Appendix 3) on eastern slopes, and red stringybark (Eucalyptus pellita), pink bloodwood and Moreton Bay ash (C. tessellaris) open forest in northern sections of the Malbon Thompson Range. This may indicate a gradual replacement of sclerophyll regional ecosystems with rainforest here.

No formal regional ecosystem mapping has been undertaken on the Frankland Group islands. Antecodal records of broad vegetation communities include mangroves, rainforest, Casuarina open woodlands on sand and rock pavement vegetation.

Seagrass beds extend into Trinity Bay north east and north west from the mouth of Trinity Inlet. The major seagrass community types are Zostera capricorni northeast of the Trinity Inlet mouth and Halodule uninervis northwest of Trinity Inlet mouth. A small community of Halophila decipiens occurs north of the Trinity Inlet mouth. A seagrass study in 1987 surveyed 30 sites within Mandingalbay Yidinji sea country in the Coral Sea but found no seagrass areas; all sites surveyed had sand or mud substrates.

Vegetation community mapping is available for East Trinity Reserve (Stanton 2009, 2006; Stanton and Stanton 2002). This mapping has been ground-truthed and is at a more-detailed scale than regional ecosystem mapping. It shows the regeneration of secondary native vegetation after the land was drained and cleared for sugar cane in the 1970s and tidal regimes were subsequently restored after 2000 (see section 9.5).

Native plant species

Flora surveys in Mandingalbay Yidinji Country are limited. Available information is from four primary sources:

  • plant species list for a Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) site at Little Pine Creek in the Malbon Thompson Range (Graham 2006)
  • plant species lists for Russell and High islands in the Frankland Group (anonymous 1997)
  • vegetation mapping at East Trinity Reserve (Stanton 2006, Stanton and Stanton 2002); this mapping primarily surveys vegetation community type, but also identifies many species
  • scattered DERM Wildnet plant species records (DERM 2009E) over the remainder of Mandingalbay Yidinji Country, particularly the Malbon Thompson Range.

Approximately 478 plant and nine fungi species are identified within Mandingalbay Yidinji Country by these sources. Recorded plant species consist of:

  • two mosses
  • five club mosses
  • two whisk ferns
  • 31 ferns
  • three conifers (including cycads)
  • 57 monocots
  • 379 dicots.

The Malbon Thompson Range has the greatest number of plant records, with approximately 295 species recorded. The most significant locations for plant species records are Little Pine Creek and the summit and upper slopes of Bell Peak North.

The Little Pine Creek site recorded 164 species of plants with individuals higher than 25 cm during a CSIRO survey in 1972 (Graham 2006). The site is a defined 0.5 ha area located in the western foothills of the Malbon Thompson Range at 110 m above sea level. Vegetation is mesophyll vine forest on granite (RE 7.12.1, Appendix 3), the dominant regional ecosystem of the lower slopes in Mandingalbay Yidinji Country. Compared to other representative Wet Tropics rainforest sites, Little Pine Creek has a moderate to high species richness (Graham 2006).

The summit and higher slopes of Bell Peak North (1026 m) have recorded 54 species recorded on Wildnet records (DERM 2009E). Vegetation is mostly microphyll vine-fern forest on granite (RE 7.12.19). Forty one of the species recorded here have not been recorded elsewhere in Mandingalbay Yidinji Country. Some of these plants may be widespread at lower altitudes in the Malbon Thompson Range but not recorded due to limited sampling effort. However, others are associated with higher altitudes, including the palms Oraniopsis appendiculata and Atherton palm (Laccospadix australasica), apricot orchid (Dendrobium fleckeri), mountain aspen (Acronychia chooreechillum) and native rhododendron (Rhododendron lochiae). Bell Peak North and possibly Bell Peak South (939 m) and May Peak (834 m) represent high altitude "islands" supporting a number of species shared with the nearby Bellenden Ker Range and other upland rainforest areas in the Wet Tropics.

In the Frankland Group, surveys carried out in 1997 found 126 native plants on High Island and 79 on Russell Island. Greater species richness on High Island is consistent with its greater size (69 ha) and closer proximity to the mainland (4.5 km) than Russell Island (20 ha, 11.5 km from mainland). Thirty-five species were recorded on both islands.

East Trinity Reserve consists mainly of secondary vegetation communities with small areas of natural vegetation. While no comprehensive floral survey is available, vegetation community surveys have recorded 68 native species (Stanton 2006). A similar number of pest plants have been recorded (section 8.1). East Trinity Reserve may have lower native species richness than similar, but less disturbed, sites elsewhere in the Wet Tropics.

Plant species of conservation concern

The limited plant surveys on Mandingalbay Yidinji Country have identified 17 plant species of conservation concern. Of these, six are listed as vulnerable under the Nature Conservation Act 1992 (NCA). The NCA previously listed 11 species as rare; this classification is being phased out and these species now require reclassification.

Six species of conservation concern under the NCA have been recorded from upland rainforest around the summit area of Bell Peak North. These are:

  • two vulnerable tassel ferns, also listed as vulnerable under the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC); these species grow as epiphytes in the rainforest canopy
  • square tassel fern (Huperzia prolifera)
  • Huperzia lockyeri
  • the vulnerable vine Parsonsia bartlensis; this species has only been recorded in the Wet Tropics above 900 m
  • the rare palm Linospadix palmeriana
  • the rare tree Argophyllum cryptophlebum; this species has also been recorded in rainforest at a lower altitude site in the Malbon Thompson Range.
  • the rare tree Helicia recurva; this species has also been recorded in rainforest at several lower altitude sites in the Malbon Thompson Range.

A further three species of conservation concern under the NCA have been recorded from other areas of the Malbon Thompson Range. These are:

  • the vulnerable herb Plectranthus amoenus
  • the rare tree Polyalthia patinata
  • the rare understorey tree Pseuduvaria froggattii
  • the rare tree Diploglottis harpullioides.

Five species of conservation concern under the NCA have been recorded in lowland rainforest in the Frankland Group. These are:

  • the vulnerable arenga palm (Arenga australasica), also listed as vulnerable under the EPBC; this species is a clumping palm threatened by loss of its lowland rainforest habitat
  • the rare tree silver boodyarra (Aglaia argentea)
  • the rare tree Buchanania mangoides
  • the rare Dallachy's ginger (Amomum dallachy)
  • the rare liana Rourea brachyandra.

Two species of conservation concern under the NCA have been recorded on the mainland coast. These are:

  • the rare shrub or small tree Macaranga polyadenia) in eucalypt woodland on the east coast
  • the epiphytic antplant (Myrmecodia beccari), listed as vulnerable under both the NCA and EPBC, in mangrove forest on the eastern edge of Trinity Inlet; this species grows as an epiphyte on trees in a wide range of regional ecosystems.

Native animals

Fauna surveys in Mandingalbay Yidinji Country have been limited. Available information is from:

  • fish surveys in East Trinity Reserve (J. Russell unpublished)
  • a fish survey in the Malbon Thompson Range (P. Thuesen unpublished)
  • seabird observations in the Frankland Group (DERM 2009E)
  • a fauna survey of Russell Island (Cummings et al. 2005)
  • scattered DERM Wildnet species records (DERM 2009E) over the remainder of Mandingalbay Yidinji Country.

Approximately 220 native animal species have been recorded from Mandingalbay Yidinji Country by these sources (Appendix 6). These comprise:

  • four invertebrates
  • 105 fish
  • seven amphibians
  • 17 reptiles
  • 82 birds
  • five mammals

Fish were sampled between 2003 and 2005 in East Trinity Reserve by the former Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries. Ninety-two of the 105 fish species recorded in Mandingalbay Yidinji Country were recorded in tidal waterways in East Trinity Reserve (J. Russell, unpublished). The mangroves and tidal creeks adjoining Trinity Inlet, and a section of Trinity Bay just north of the inlet mouth, are Fish Habitat areas under the Queensland Fisheries Act 1994. Fish surveys undertaken by the former Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries in the Malbon Thompson Range in 2008 recorded 19 species of native fish (P. Thuesen, unpublished).

Seabirds are well-sampled in the Frankland Group. Of the 82 birds recorded, 62 were in the Frankland Group, including approximately 30 seabirds and shorebirds (DERM 2009E, Cummings et al. 2005). Normanby Island contains an important seabird-nesting area. East Russell Island is a nesting site for birds including ospreys (Pandion haliaetus).

Nine of the 15 reptile species records are from Russell Island, with a number of records from a fauna survey undertaken by students in 2005 (DERM 2009E), Cummings et al. 2005). Reptiles recorded are mainly skinks and geckos. In 2005 at least one individual amethystine python (Morelia kinghorni) was present on Russell Island, apparently preying upon seabirds. An individual snake may have been transported to the island by humans or on debris from the Russell-Mulgrave River during a flood.

Five mammals have been recorded in scattered sightings, comprising three bats, the canefield rat (Rattus sordidus) and musky rat-kangaroo (Hypsiprymnodon moschatus).

Animal species of conservation concern

Limited sampling has identified 18 species of conservation concern. These are:

  • three frogs recorded in the Malbon Thompson Range:
    • the sharp-snouted dayfrog (Taudactylus acutirostris) listed as endangered under the NCA and extinct under the EPBC
    • the Australian lacelid (Nyctimystes dayi) listed as endangered under the NCA and EPBC
    • the rare peeping whistlefrog (Austrochaperina fryeri)

The Malbon Thompson Range is predicted core habitat for the sharp-snouted dayfrog and Australian lacelid. The range is also the predicted core habitat for several threatened frogs that have not yet been recorded here; these are endangered common mistfrog (Litoria rheocola), endangered waterfall frog (Litoria nannotis), rare tapping green-eyed frog (Litoria genimaculata) and rare creaking nurseryfrog (Cophixalus infacetus);

  • the rare grey goshawk (Accipiter novaehollandiae), from Russell Island;
  • the rare Australian swiftlet (Aerodramus terraereginae), from the Malbon Thompson Range;
  • the vulnerable beach stone-curlew (Esacus magnirostris), from Russell and Normanby islands;
  • the southern cassowary (Casuarius casuarius johnsonii), vulnerable under the NCA and endangered under the EPBC, recorded on the Malbon Thompson Range. Most of Mandingalbay Yidinji Country, except cleared, degraded or very steep areas, is mapped as Essential Habitat for cassowaries;
  • the rare black-necked stork or jabiru (Ephippiorhynchus asiaticus), from East Trinity Reserve;
  • the rare sooty oystercatcher (Haematopus fuliginosus), from the Frankland Group;
  • the endangered little tern (Sternula albifrons), from Russell and Normanby islands;
  • the vulnerable red-tailed tropicbird (Phaethon rubricauda), from Normanby Island;
  • the rare eastern curlew (Numenius madagascariensis), from East Trinity Reserve;
  • the spectacled flying-fox (Pteropus conspicillatus), vulnerable under the EPBC (least concern under the NCA); roosting colonies formerly existed at East Trinity Reserve and Bessie Point (C. Clague, pers. comm. 2009);
  • the Cairns rainbowfish (Cairnsychthis rhombosomoides), recorded from a creek in the Malbon Thompson Range flowing into the Mulgrave River. Fish have no NCA status; however the species is listed as vulnerable under the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) and native fish researchers (Crook and Pogonowski 2001);
  • Allen's stiphodon or Allen's cling-goby (Stiphodon alleni), recorded from the Malbon Thompson Range; this fish is poorly known and recorded only from creeks in a small area south of Cairns;
  • the Mulgrave goby (Glossogobius bellendenensis, formerly Glossogobius species 4), recorded from the Malbon Thompson Range; this fish is recorded only from the Mulgrave River and creeks around Cairns and Mossman; it is listed as rare by native fish researchers (Crook and Pogonowski 2001);
  • the vulnerable estuarine crocodile (Crocodylus porosus), from East Trinity Reserve; the species breeds in the area;
  • the green turtle (Chelonia mydas), vulnerable under the NCA and EPBC, from the Frankland Group.

Seventeen migratory species recorded on Mandingalbay Yidinji Country are listed under the Bonn Convention, China-Australia Migratory Bird Agreement (CAMBA), Japan-Australia Migratory Bird Agreement (JAMBA) and/or Republic of Korea-Australia Migratory Bird Agreement (ROKAMBA) (Table 1). These agreements protect migratory species by limiting the circumstances under which migratory species are taken or traded, protecting important habitats, exchanging information and building co-operative relationships.

Table 1: Species recorded on Mandingalbay Yidinji Country listed under international agreements

Scientific name

Common name

Bonn Convention





Charadrius mongolus

lesser sand plover





Fregata minor

great frigatebird





Anous stolidus

common noddy





Sterna sumatrana

black-naped tern





Sternula albifrons

little tern





Thalasseus bengalensis

lesser crested tern




Merops ornatus

rainbow bee-eater




Actitis hypoleucos

common sandpiper



Arenaria interpres

ruddy turnstone





Calidris ruficollis

red-necked stint





Calidris tenuirostris

great knot





Numenius madagascariensis

eastern curlew





Numenius phaeopus






Tringa brevipes

grey-tailed tattler





Xenus cinereus

terek sandpiper





Sula leucogaster

brown booby






Crocodylus porosus

estuarine crocodile



Chelonia mydas

green turtle