Patterned fen formation and development from the Great Sandy Region, south-east Queensland, Australia

Patrick Moss*, John Tibby, Felicity Shapland, Russell Fairfax, Philip Stewart, Cameron Barr, Lynda Petherick, Allen Gontz, Craig Sloss

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)


The Great Sandy Region (incorporating Fraser Island and the Cooloola sand-mass), south-east Queensland, contains a significant area of Ramsar-listed coastal wetlands, including the globally important patterned fen complexes. These mires form an elaborate network of pools surrounded by vegetated peat ridges and are the only known subtropical, Southern Hemisphere examples, with wetlands of this type typically located in high northern latitudes. Sedimentological, palynological and charcoal analysis from the Wathumba and Moon Point complexes on Fraser Island indicate two periods of swamp formation (that may contain patterned fens), one commencing at 12000 years ago (Moon Point) and the other ∼4300 years ago (Wathumba). Wetland formation and development is thought to be related to a combination of biological and hydrological processes with the dominant peat-forming rush, Empodisma minus, being an important component of both patterned and non-patterned mires within the region. In contrast to Northern Hemisphere paludifying systems, the patterning appears to initiate at the start of wetland development or as part of an infilling process. The wetlands dominated by E. minus are highly resilient to disturbance, particularly burning and sea level alterations, and appear to form important refuge areas for amphibians, fish and birds (both non-migratory and migratory) over thousands of years.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)816-827
Number of pages12
JournalMarine and Freshwater Research
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • Empodisma minus
  • charcoal
  • pollen
  • refuge


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