The 300+ islands of Torres Strait were formed through a variety of coastal and geomorphic processes, and contain some of Australia’s most iconic flora and fauna. From a global perspective, the islands of Torres Strait are significant dispersal and migratory steps for flora and fauna between Australia and New Guinea.
Island land ecosystems are shaped by generations of continuous traditional land use across the four island types (continental, coral cay, mud and volcanic). As such, there is significant variation across the region, and each island forms its own unique biocultural landscape. The health and resilience of these landscapes is of critical importance to the people of Torres Strait. The composition, significance, and management needs of Torres Strait terrestrial ecosystems within these landscapes are well documented, and there is a depth of local knowledge about how best to manage the islands. Nevertheless, there are knowledge gaps which have been identified.
As human-managed biocultural landscapes, the land ecosystems of Torres Strait are in various states of condition. Condition is influenced by multiple factors and impacts are varied. Some landscapes remain intact, stable and functional due to a long and continued history of sustainable management coupled with remoteness. Others are in various states of transition in response to complex inter-relationships around changing land use, recovery from historic impacts, or
current and emerging threats. These threats include degradation by weeds and pest animals, changes in traditional land use, loss of cultural fire practices, loss of vegetation cover and habitat through coastal erosion and seawater inundation from climate change. Saline contamination of ground water is of concern
to some island communities and landscapes. Effective threat management requires collaboration among people with in-depth local knowledge and scientists with expertise in threat management.