Lowendal Islands

Year of compilation: 2008

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).

Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
Minimise risk of oil spills and gas explosions. Monitor breeding numbers and success of seabirds.

Conservation responses/actions for key biodiversity
Apache Energy has funded a number of surveys and monitoring projects.

Protected areas
Lowendal Islands Nature Reserve.

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.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2020) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Lowendal Islands. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 26/05/2020.