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Location Australia, Western Australia
Central coordinates 115o 33.93' East  20o 38.79' South
IBA criteria A4i
Area 160 ha
Altitude 0 - 30m
Year of IBA assessment 2009

BirdLife Australia



Summary The Lowendal Islands Archipelago regularly supports more than 1% of the global population of Crested Tern and Bridled Tern.

Site description The Lowendal Archipelago is about 120 km off Onslow on the Pilbara coast. It is about 10 km north-east of Barrow Island IBA and 15 km south of Montebello Islands IBA. The archipelago consists of 34 islands and islets, of which the largest, Varanus Island, is 83 ha, measuring 2.5 km by 600 m. Other large islands include Abutilon (27 ha), Bridled (27 ha), Parkinsonia (10 ha) and Beacon (1.5 ha); all are included in the IBA as Crested Tern colonies move between islands and they have nested on at least three of these five large islands, and Bridled Terns nest on another large island and probably in smaller numbers across the archipelago. The islands are raised limestone rocks with sparse vegetation. Varanus has an industrial gas separation plant, oil storage tanks and a pipeline to load oil into tankers moored offshore. Inshore waters support coral reefs, sea-grass and algae beds. Several oil drilling platforms and an oil processing platform, Harriet Alpha, are located a few kilometres offshore.

Key Biodiversity 6000 pairs of Roseate Terns nested in 1997, probably a temporary re-location of the population nesting on the Montebello Islands. Estimated numbers of other breeding seabirds include 800 pairs of Wedge-tailed Shearwater, 600 pairs of Pied Cormorant, 700 pairs of Lesser Crested Tern (in 1997-1999), less than 100 pairs of Caspian Tern and 2000 pairs of Silver Gull (Nicholson ref).

Populations of IBA trigger species

Species Season Period Population estimate Quality of estimate IBA Criteria IUCN Category
Greater Crested Tern Thalasseus bergii breeding  1997-2008  4,000-9,097 breeding pairs  A4i  Least Concern 
Bridled Tern Onychoprion anaethetus breeding  1995  3,000-5,000 breeding pairs  A4i  Least Concern 

IBA Monitoring

2008 medium not assessed not assessed
unset
Good - based on reliable and complete / representative data

Energy production and mining oil and gas drilling likely in long term (beyond 4 years) majority/most of area/population (50-90%) moderate to rapid deterioration medium
Invasive and other problematic species and genes problematic native species/diseases - named species happening now some of area/population (10-49%) no or imperceptible deterioration low

Protected areas

Protected area Designation Area (ha) Relationship with IBA Overlap with IBA (ha)  
Lowendal Nature Reserve 179 protected area contains site 160  

Habitats

IUCN habitat Habitat detail Extent (% of site)
Coastline Sea cliffs, rocky shores & rocky islets  major
Shrubland   major

Land ownership Varanus Island managed by DEC as part of Lowendal Islands Nature Reserve (class C) but 30 ha leased to Apache Energy for oil and gas production.

Land use

Land-use Extent (% of site)
nature conservation and research major
Notes: Varanus Island managed by DEC as part of Lowendal Islands Nature Reserve (class C) but 30 ha leased to Apache Energy for oil and gas exploration.
energy production and mining minor

Protection status Lowendal Islands Nature Reserve.

Acknowledgements The data was kindly provided by Apache Energy Ltd through their annual Seabird Monitoring Program undertaken by Halfmoon Biosciences (CA Surman and LW Nicholson).

References Dunlop, J.N. (1996) Habituation to human disturbance by breeding Bridled Terns Sternus anaethetus. Corella 20: 13-16.

Nicholson, L.W. (2002) Breeding strategies and Community Structure in an Assemblage of Tropical Seabirds on the Lowendal Islands, Western Australia. Unpublished PhD. Thesis for Murdoch University.

Nicholson, L.W. and Surman, C.A. (2006) Monitoring of annual variation in seabird breeding colonies throughout the Lowendal Group of islands: 2006 Annual Report. Unpublished Report prepared for Apache Energy Ltd by Halfmoon Biosciences.

Surman, C.A. and L.W. Nicholson (2005) Monitoring of annual variation in seabird breeding colonies throughout the Lowendal Group of islands: 2005 Annual Report. Unpublished report prepared for Apache Energy Ltd by Halfmoon Biosciences.

Surman, C.A. and Nicholson, L.W. (2007) Monitoring of annual variation in seabird breeding colonies throughout the Lowendal Group of islands: 2007 Annual Report. Unpublished report prepared for Apache Energy Ltd by Halfmoon Biosciences.

Surman, C.A. and Nicholson, L.W. (2008) Monitoring of annual variation in seabird breeding colonies throughout the Lowendal Group of islands: 2008 Annual Report. Unpublished report prepared for Apache Energy Ltd. by Halfmoon Biosciences.

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Recommended citation  BirdLife International (2014) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Lowendal Islands. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 19/12/2014

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