‘Only place in the world’ with three biospheres side-by-side | UniSC | University of the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia

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‘Only place in the world’ with three biospheres side-by-side

Queensland has a world exclusive reason to celebrate International Day for Biosphere Reserves on 3 November, University of the Sunshine Coast Vice-Chancellor and President Professor Helen Bartlett says.


Queensland houses the only stretch of three continuous UNESCO Biosphere Reserves out of the five in Australia and more than 700 in the world – and all are UniSC campus locations.

“The biospheres as nominated by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation), cover most of the university’s geographical footprint, which stretches from Fraser Coast to Moreton Bay,” Professor Bartlett said.

“We have a unique status where three UNESCO Biosphere Reserves sit side by side – stretching an estimated 222 kilometres, from the world’s largest sand island, through kilometres of coastlines and waterways up to the sub-tropical rainforests and mountains.”

Noosa Everglades, part of the Noosa Biosphere Reserve

A biosphere is globally recognised an ‘international site of excellence’ where people live and work sustainably alongside active conservation and sustainable development.

Professor Bartlett said the cluster provided enormous opportunity for researchers and students keen to study across the Great Sandy Biosphere at Fraser Coast, Noosa Biosphere Reserve and Sunshine Coast Biosphere Reserve.

“These are not only ecologically fascinating and beautiful places to conduct study and conservation work, but they are also closely located to places where people live and interact with the landscape,” she said.

“International students see this as an opportunity to study across multiple regions where people live in close proximity to areas of ecological significance, interact with it, and actively work to learn more about the land, water, wildlife and people of the area.”  

UniSC Deputy Vice Chancellor (Research and Innovation) Professor Ross Young said there were seven types of ecosystem-specific networks listed by UNESCO, and Queensland’s biospheres encompassed five – mangroves, marine coastal and island areas, mountains, tropical forest and wetlands.

“As a university that places enormous focus on research that aligns with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, we are fortunate to have access to such a rich network of landscapes, biodiversity, cultural heritage and communities,” Professor Young said.

“Our work in these regions has led to UniSC’s global research success. We are enormously proud of our research in ecological applications, environmental science and management, ecology, fisheries sciences, forestry sciences, and others that have been rated ‘well above world standard’ in the Excellence in Research for Australia assessments by the Australian Research Council.”

Biosphere reserves, of which there are 738 in the world, are learning areas for sustainable development under diverse ecological, social and economic contexts, touching the lives of more than 250 million people around the world.

They also have an enormous potential in addressing climate change, particularly as places for learning about sustainable development and for experimenting on mitigation and adaptation measures on climate change.

The Sunshine Coast was declared a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in June 2022, joining the existing Noosa Biosphere Reserve (2007) and Great Sandy Biosphere Reserves (since 2009).

Queensland’s biosphere cluster:

  • Great Sandy Biosphere Reserve at Fraser Coast - Stretching over 120 kilometres along the Southern coast of Queensland and covering 1,840 km2, is K’gari, the largest sand island in the world. It includes 53 protected species of bird and covers the Great Sandy Marine Park which includes tidal lands and waters, as well as fish habitat reserves and wetland reserves. UniSC research in the area includes turtle rehabilitation, forestry, dingoes and tourism. More information here.
Lake Birrabeen foreshore on K'gari (Fraser Island), part of the Great Sandy Biosphere Reserve
  • Noosa Biosphere Reserve – Covers approximately 150,00 hectares of freshwater, tidal and terrestrial areas, and is home to the Noosa Everglades (one of only two ancient everglade systems in the world). Nearly 40 percent of its area is protected in national parks, conservation parks, state forests, lakes and systems. UniSC research in the area covers koala health and genetics mapping, koala vaccination trials and oyster reef restoration trials, iconic marine species, and developing indicators of conservation success. More information here.
  • Sunshine Coast Biosphere – The Sunshine Coast is home to some of Australia’s most pristine landscapes, including the ancient Glass House Mountains, the Noosa Everglades (which is one of only two everglade systems in the world). UniSC research in the area includes youth mental health, seaweed research, human factors and sociotechnical systems as well as globally-cited climate change research. More information here.
Noosa Biosphere Reserve

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