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Estuarine ecology

Estuarine wetlands are those with marine or oceanic water which is diluted with freshwater run-off from the land. It is usually an area where a river meets the sea providing an important habitat for many species. Many commercial species such as fish, crabs, prawns etc. start their life in estuarine areas. Mangroves are usually the most common vegetation as they are specially designed to deal with the high levels of salt found in the water and the often water-logged environment. These areas are also important when it comes to protecting the coastline from storm surges, cyclones etc.

Long Island, Photo by Cathy Ellis

Quick facts

Brisbane River
is the longest estuary in South East Queensland. Over time, removing the sand bar at the mouth of the river and long-term dredging has increased the oceans tidal reach to nearly 90km upstream[1].

Queensland Intertidal and Subtidal Classification Scheme

The Queensland Intertidal and Subtidal Ecosystem Classification Scheme uses the biological, physical and chemical characteristics of the water column and sea floor to classify intertidal and subtidal ecosystems, which includes estuarine and marine environments. The scheme develops a common understanding and language of classification to improve communication and lead to better management outcomes. It provides a structured framework and understanding available for mapping.

Module 1—Introduction and implementation of intertidal and subtidal ecosystem classification is split into two parts. Part 1 of the module introduces the classification scheme, outlines key principles and concepts, and describes how the scheme was developed. Part 2 of the module describes the process of implementing the scheme, including how to develop a classification system, creating a typology, and mapping the final outputs and ecosystem types.


The OzCoasts website provides conceptual diagrams depicting estuarine wetland processes, threats and stressors, including a range of geomorphic conceptual models for each of the seven types of Australian estuaries and coastal waterways. The descriptions supporting these diagrams also contain extensive amounts of useful information.

Additional information


  1. ^ Estuaries are viable and valuable - pdf on site taken down 2010, SEQ Healthy Waterways Partnership, viewed 30 August 2012.

Last updated: 10 April 2017

This page should be cited as:

Estuarine ecology, WetlandInfo 2013, Department of Environment and Science, Queensland, viewed 11 February 2019, <>.

Queensland Government
WetlandInfo   —   Department of Environment and Science