SWALE — Surveying Western Australia’s Land Edge

The SWALE project brought together scientific and community efforts to record floristics and vegetation structure in the form of reference transects in coastal areas of high conservation value. Natural processes such as climatic fluctuation and human-mediated factors such as weed invasion, increase in fire frequency and recreational use of coastal areas all produce readily observable change in coastal environments, even in the short term. The transect survey was designed so that vegetation condition and floristics could be monitored in the future and compared to the baseline data obtained by SWALE in 2002 and SWALE 2 in 2005. Thus insights to inform future management of natural coastal resources could be amassed.

The project also provided training for community volunteers of the Regional Herbarium in each of the project areas to support and promote their work in collecting the Western Australian flora for scientific purposes. Lodging voucher specimens is a particularly important activity to validate the scientific value of any study and in this regard the project aimed to be an example of how this should be done. This project carried the expertise of the volunteers into the realm of ecological survey and vegetation monitoring in recognition of the fact that it is often the volunteer sector which provides continuity in many long-term projects (such as vegetation monitoring and bush regeneration) which are essential in managing and conserving biodiversity.

Surveying the Coastal strip

The SWALE and SWALE 2 projects established monitoring transects at Geraldton, Bunbury, Perth (Port Kennedy), Esperance (Cape Le Grand National Park), Kalbarri (Jakes Point, Red Bluff and Goats Gulch), Mandurah (Creery Island, Seal Rock and Florida Beach) and Albany (Sharp Point, Little Beach and Goode Beach). These areas were chosen primarily because of interest expressed by the respective Regional Herbarium groups, the high conservation value of the project areas and the wide variety of coastal landforms and vegetation present.

The Greenough Dunes in the Geraldton area are of State-wide conservation significance with characteristically large, perched dunes encroaching northwards over scrub and heath towards the Greenough River. This type of landform is not found elsewhere in Western Australia.

The Port Kennedy Scientific Park, encompasses part of the Becher cuspate foreland. This is composed of an extensive series of low-relief beach ridges and swales. Subtle vegetation patterns include grassland, sedgeland and open heath and these reflect the developmental history of the landforms and the groundwater levels. The area is of international significance and this is recognized in its Ramsar convention listing.

At Dalyellup Beach, south of Bunbury, eastward-trending dunes of high relief are fixed with closed scrub and low closed forest of Peppermints in deep parabolic dune bowls and valleys. Tuart woodland is present within a stone’s throw of the beach in some of these valleys. This area is of regional significance being representative of the northern part of the poorly-conserved Quindalup to Leschenault sector of the Quindalup Dunes.

At Cape Le Grand National Park species-rich coastal vegetation inhabits a great variety of landforms such as granite hills, islands and headlands, plateaux, dunes and coastal wetlands. The area also holds a rich human history associated with early European coastal exploration and the investigation of natural science.

At Kalbarri, the Red Bluff transect illustrated the vegetation of the Tumblagooda Sandstone cliffs adjacent to the Indian Ocean.

At the Goat Gulch transect the Tumblagooda Sandstone formed much taller cliffs and was overlaid by a capping of Tamala Limestone, thus the vegetation of this transect could perhaps be seen as having a closer alliance to that of the coastal cliffs north of Kalbarri than the Red Bluff vegetation.

The setting of the Creery Wetlands in the Holocene estuarine shoals at the Peel-Harvey Inlet at Mandurah was very different to the other SWALE 2 transects.

At Jakes Point (Kalbarri), Seal Rock and Florida Beach (Mandurah) and Goode Beach (Albany) the foredunes of the transects were Holocene dunes. Climatic and edaphic differences between the latter transects however set the stage for variations in vegetation and floristics.

The tall cliffs of the Torndirrup National Park at Albany were in many respects similar to the tall cliffs at Kalbarri however there were major geological and climatic differences between the Sharp Point and Goat Gulch transects.

The final transect at Little Beach (Two Peoples Bay near Albany) contrasted sharply with all other transects surveyed in SWALE being a very unusual freshwater wetland immediately adjacent to the high energy Southern Ocean in a subhumid climatic setting.

All transects at Kalbarri and Albany were located in National Parks in areas with conservation values of national significance. Similarly in the Mandurah area, the Seal Rock transect was established in an area of high conservation values in the Yalgorup National Park. The other two Mandurah transects were established in relatively degraded areas.

The Latest Data

By vouchering specimens from these surveys at both the local regional herbarium and the Western Australian Herbarium the latest authoritative identification, together with access to a wide variety of information about the species, becomes available.

Details of the 1000 specimens collected in the course of these surveys and of the species they represent are available from FloraBase on a site by site basis:

SWALE Project Reports


In 2002 the first report of the SWALE Project was completed. It is available here in PDF format (38 MB file). Note: This document excludes Appendices 3–6: the detailed transect data, available below. Due to its size we also present the document for download chapter by chapter.

Please cite this report as follows:
Tauss, C. (2002). Surveying Western Australia’s Land Edge. Reference transects in coastal vegetation at Geraldton, Port Kennedy, Bunbury and Esperance. Unpublished report for the Western Australian Herbarium (Department of Conservation and Land Management) and Coastwest/Coastcare (Department of Infrastructure and Planning).


In 2005, the second SWALE project included transects at Kalbarri, Mandurah and Albany. The report is available as a single document (PDF, 6.8 MB), or as separate PDF files:

Please cite this report as follows:
Tauss, C (2005). Surveying Western Australia’s Land Edge 2. Reference transects in coastal vegetation at Kalbarri, Mandurah and Albany. Unpublished report for the Western Australian Herbarium (Department of Conservation and Land Management) and Coastwest (Department of Infrastructure and Planning).

Further contact

For further details of this project you may wish to contact us.

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