Territory Stories

Tiwi Islands



Tiwi Islands


Harrison, L.; McGuire, L.; Ward, S.; Fisher, A.; Pavey, C.; Fegan, M.; Lynch, B.; Natural Heritage Trust (Australia)

Issued by

Northern Territory. Department of Natural Resources, Environment, The Arts And Sport. Biodiversity Conservation Unit. Division of Environment, Heritage and the Arts


E-Publications; PublicationNT; E-Books; Site 09; Sites of Conservation Significance




Tiwi Islands


This is one of 67 dossiers on sites of conservation significance in the Northern Territory. The whole report is "An inventory of sites of international and national significance for biodiversity values in the Northern Territory"�. Department of Natural Resources, Environment, The Arts and Sport, Darwin, NT (2009).; Made available via the Publications (Legal Deposit) Act 2004 (NT).




Conservation of natural resources -- Northern Territory -- Tiwi Islands; Conservation significance; Threatened species; Endemic species; Wildlife aggregations; Wetlands

Publisher name

Northern Territory Government

Place of publication



Site 09; Sites of Conservation Significance


279 - 283 pages : colour illustration and map ; 30 cm.

File type



Attribution International 4.0 (CC BY 4.0)

Copyright owner

Northern Territory Government



Related links

http://hdl.handle.net/10070/240659 [An inventory of sites of international and national significance for biodiversity values in the NT]; http://hdl.handle.net/10070/265569 [Sites of conservation significance maps]

Parent handle


Citation address


Page content

Tiwi Islands Location and Description The Tiwi Islands lie 20 km north of Darwin and include Australias second and fifth largest islands - Melville and Bathurst Islands, respectively. They receive the Northern Territorys highest annual rainfall (average >1400 mm) and are dominated by tall eucalypt forest on sandy and lateritic plains and rises. Rainforest patches occur in association with perennial freshwater springs on the islands, and the coast is lined with long beaches and rocky headlands, interspersed with mangrove-lined creeks and rivers. Tenure and Land Use The Tiwi Islands are Aboriginal freehold land owned by the Tiwi Aboriginal Land Trust. The land mainly supports Indigenous uses, but plantation forestry is increasing in area on Melville Is and may occur on Bathurst Is in the future. Other uses include tourism, mining, and commercial fisheries. Significance Rating International Significance Ecological Values Partly because of their isolation and because they occupy a climatic extreme (high rainfall), the Tiwi Islands support many species not recorded anywhere else in the Northern Territory (or in the world), as well as a number of rangerestricted species. The Tiwi Islands contain the Territorys best-developed (tallest and with greatest basal area) eucalypt forests, along with an unusually high density and extent of rainforests. The coasts support important nesting sites for marine turtles, internationally significant seabird rookeries, and some major aggregations of migratory shorebirds. Some 19 plant and 19 animal species found on the Tiwi Islands are listed as threatened at the Northern Territory or National level. The isolation of the Tiwi Islands also provides some protection for their plants and animals from some processes affecting many habitats on the Northern Territory mainland (such as Cane Toads and some invasive exotic plants). Management Issues The spread of invasive exotic grasses may affect a number of ecosystems on the islands and will potentially change the fire regime. Feral animals (including exotic ants, Water Buffalo, cattle, pig and cat) are also affecting the conservation values of the Islands, and there are significant, and increasing, areas of intensive development associated with a major plantation forestry industry. Condition Most vegetation is relatively extensive and intact. The exceptions to this are relatively small areas of modified landscapes around townships, and increasingly larger areas of forestry plantations on Melville Island. Current Conservation Initiatives The Tiwi Land Council has developed a natural resource management strategy with a focus on managing threats to biodiversity and building local capacity to manage natural resources. Aboriginal land and sea management activities include coastal patrols, marine debris surveys, implementation of the Cane Toad Action Plan, and turtle management. Populations of a number of threatened plants and animals are being monitored, and there is active management of some weeds, feral animals and fire by Indigenous rangers, including a joint pest ant eradication project with CSIRO, which aims to control African Big-headed Ants and Tropical Fire Ants. Google Earth imagery

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