Where Is Fraser Island?
Fraser Island, located off the east coast of Queensland in Australia, is the largest sand island in the world. It measures 76 miles in length, 15.5 miles wide, and covers an area of 454,674 acres. This island is covered in large sand dunes, colorful sand cliffs, rainforests, and freshwater lakes. It was inducted to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 1992. This article takes a closer look at the unique characteristics of Fraser Island, also known as K’gari in its Aboriginal name.
Why Is Fraser Island A World Heritage Site?
Fraser Island was chosen as a UNESCO World Heritage Site for more reasons than just being the world’s largest sand island. It meets 3 very specific World Heritage Site criteria: a wide variety of unique natural beauty, a valuable example of currently forming geological processes, and a valuable example of currently forming biological processes.
Natural Beauty Of Fraser Island
A natural UNESCO World Heritage must have a large variety of distinct natural features. Fraser Island fits this bill by offering the previously mentioned characteristics: long beaches, sand dunes, sand cliffs, rainforests, and freshwater lakes. Its rainforest patches, however, are particularly unique. These trees grow on top of tall sand dunes, an occurrence that is thought to only happen on this island. Additionally, its freshwater lakes are classified as perched. Perched lakes are created by accumulated organic matter that is shifted by the wind, creating hardened depressions where water can collect.
Forming Geological Processes
The sand dunes of Fraser Island form the most complete age sequence in the world. This means that researchers are able to study 400,000-year old sand dunes while simultaneously studying active sand dune formations. Fraser Island exhibits active parabolic dunes that are located on top of older dunes that were created during periods of low sea levels. These lower sand dunes have been effectively held in place by patches of rainforest, a phenomenon seen nowhere else in the world.
Forming Biological Processes
Because the island is experiencing ongoing geological processes, it is also home to active biological processes. These observable processes include biological evolution and biological adaptation. An example of biological adaptation can be seen in the rainforest plants that have adapted to an environment of sand beds. Additionally, an example of biological evolution can be seen in the occurence of unique and geographically important plant and animal species. Researchers have determined that Fraser Island has a uniquely high level of complex vegetation succession. This means that the plant life changes drastically from place to place and over relatively short distances. These multiple varied habitats provide homes to a significant number of separated plant and animal populations, which promotes speciation (the process of some biological populations evolving into new species).
Management Of Fraser Island
The Queensland Parks and Wildlife Services (QPWS), which is overseen by Australia’s Department of National Parks, Sport, and Racing (NPSR), is responsible for managing Fraser Island. Its administration is guided by several national regulations, including: the Nature Conservation Act of 1992, the Marine Parks Act of 2004, the Recreation Area Management Act of 2006, and the Sustainable Planning Act of 2009. Additionally, this site is protected for its national environmental importance under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act of 1999.