The rocky reefs of southern Tasmania are considered to be among the most diverse marine habitats in Australia, with hundreds of different species contained within a small area.

The Habitat Atlas indicates that there are about 3.3 km² of rocky/cobble reef remaining in the Derwent estuary predominantly in the lower estuary and along the coastline between Taroona and Tinderbox. There is also about 0.3 km² of kelp forest in this area. There are two marine protected areas in this region: the Crayfish Point Scientific Reserve (just off the Tasmanian Aquaculture & Fisheries labs) and the Tinderbox Marine Reserve.

Community types

Did you know?

  • A recent survey at the Crayfish Point Reserve documented thousands of crayfish living in this small area.
  • An inventory of Derwent estuary rocky reefs was conducted in 2010. See report for more details.

Things to explore

  • Visit the Tinderbox Marine Reserve and underwater snorkel trail to learn more about the plants and animals living in rocky reef communities.
  • Explore tidal pools along rocky foreshores to discover some of the plants and animals found in rocky reef habitats. Download the Foreshore Futures E-Set from the Parks & Wildlife website for more information and activities

Educational resources and excursions

The Derwent Estuary Program have developed a range of classroom activities and an outdoor interpretive walk focused on rocky reefs and the intertidal zone with support from the Australian Government’s Caring for Our Country. The material is suitable for grades K–10. A single classroom activity or the interpretive walk can be presented alone. However, the material has been designed to complement each other and if delivered together will enable students to gain a good understanding of the ecology and importance of rocky reefs and the intertidal zone to the broader estuary. The aim is to promote aquatic conservation by raising awareness of our impacts on urban waterways, the value of maintaining healthy waterways and the need for habitat restoration and protection. These resources also help to develop the students listening, writing and recording skills through creating charts, making records of animal’s diet and sensitivity to pollution, thinking about biological processes and creating visual classroom displays. Many of these activities also help students develop a consideration for other creatures and the environment and develop their social skills by working on small teams.

Classroom activities

Introduction to rocky reefs all ages

The DEP website provides a general introduction to tidal wetlands and macrophyte beds in the Derwent estuary. In small groups ask students to explore the website to answer a range of general exploratory questions.

Rocky Reef Real Estate Activity

Basic Activity – Investigating species habitat requirements all ages

Assign each student a reef species from the list of 30 provided. Students create a real estate pamphlet in the style of a fold out brochure that is geared towards their par­ticular species and its life history. The learning objectives of this activity are to research a species and determine its habitat and resource requirements as both a juvenile and adult.

Extension Activity 1 – impacts to Rocky Reef Real Estate in the Derwent Grades 3–10

Students consider the types of pressures that affect biodiversity in reefs and the inter-tidal zone of estuaries. Identify the source of a pressure as either human based and environmental, and as land based or aquatic. Now ask each student which pressures are most relevant to their species and why? Think about if they are direct or indirect modes of impact.

Extension Activity 2 – Reef Restoration Action and Solutions Grades 5–10

Now ask each student which pressures are most relevant to their species and why? Students may need to research the threats and stresses to the survival of their population, such as loss of habitat, overfishing, boating, or pollution. Students can identify the role the community can play in the recovery of their species, or their key habitat.

What are Marine Reserves and how do they protect habitats and species? Grades 4–10

In this lesson students learn about the diverse marine ecosystems we have in Tasmania, the problems they face, and the role of marine reserves and conservation areas. Small groups can perform up to four tasks to research the web and learn about the specific values of different reserves, what they protect, how they protect, and why. Compare different marine reserves, and ask – are they effective in protecting species and habitats, or are other measures required?

Outdoor activities

Hinsby Beach Discovery trail all ages

The Hinsby Beach Discovery Trail can be enjoyed by individuals, or led by a teacher/guide. During low tide explore the exposed reef and rock pools to appreciate the diversity of life in the intertidal zone. Take the Trail by following 9 discovery points along a mapped walking trail and read from a detailed information sheet. Explore the intertidal zone to discover, extreme diversity, amazing adaptations, and hidden secrets all in one short walk. Incorporate the ‘Rock Pool Detective’ and ‘Exploring Seashell Fauna’ activities to engage students further in this outdoor classroom. Currently there is no signage at the site, so it is essential you print out the Discovery Trail info pack and take it with you.

Rock Pool Detective Grades 2–8

Look closely to appreciate how marine organisms use boulders, crevices and pools to survive during low tide. There are many physical challenges faced by intertidal animals in the daily cycle. Follow an activity sheet to find the answers to a range of fascinating questions. Make use of the field sheet in this exercise.

Exploring Seashell Fauna Grades 3–10

Different types of marine invertebrate make different types of shells. Comparing the size, shape and colours of seashells is a great way of exploring the diversity in molluscs that live along rocky shorelines. For those willing to get down on hands and knees you will be amazed at the tiny world of micro-molluscs.