Bowen is located on the north-east coast of Australia, at exactly twenty degrees south of the equator. In fact, the twentieth parallel crosses the main street. Bowen is halfway between Townsville and Mackay.
Once occupied by the Girudala people, the first European to set eyes upon the present site of Bowen was Captain James Cook who named Cape Gloucester and Edgecumbe Bay in 1770. Bowen has a varied history being the oldest town in North Queensland. Its establishment really dates back to 1859 when Captain Henry Daniel Sinclair sailed in search of a suitable port north of Rockhampton. He found a good harbour which he named Port Denison. In March 1861 the Queensland government declared Port Denison an official port of entry, allowing for the future development of the region and the township of Bowen was established. During World War II Bowen became home to two squadrons of Catilinas, when it was deemed that the operational base in Port Moresby was no longer safe from Japanese attack.
Bowen's industries include beef cattle, a salt works, coke production, a tomato-processing plant and fish processing plants. Abbot Point is situated 19 km north of Bowen. It is Australia's most northerly coal-shipping port and will eventually be able to handle over 24 million tonnes of coal each year.
Bowen is within the Don catchment which covers an area of approximately 3900km2. It is drained by the Don River, which flows intermittently depending on seasonal and variable monsoon rain events. Average rainfall is around 1013,mm per year (Ludescher 1997). Winds are predominantly south-easterly trades, strongest during winter, weaker and with a north-easterly element during the summer months (Scheltinga and Heydon 2005). The coast is protected against oceanic swells by the complex reefs and shoals of the Great Barrier Reef system. Tides in this region are semi-diurnal and tidal amplitude is around 3.3 m.
Seagrass meadows are a significant component of the marine ecosystem in the region. Between Cape Upstart and Edgecumbe Bay, seagrass meadows have a discontinuous inshore distribution. They are found both subtidally and intertidally, and are a significant food resource for dugongs and green turtles (Coles et al 2007). They also represent significant nursery grounds for fisheries. Edgecumbe Bay in particular has meadows that support large populations of juvenile brown tiger king and endeavour prawns – species of high commercial value. Within Edgecumbe Bay, six species of seagrass have been recorded – Halodule uninervis, Halophila ovalis, Syringodium isoetofolium, Cymodocea serrulata, Halophila decipiens and Zostera capricorni. This is just under half of the species recognised within Queensland waters. This combined with other habitat and fisheries values make Edgecumbe Bay a standout candidate for declaration as a Fish Habitat Area which occurred in 2005 (www.dpi.qld.gov.au/fisheries/habitat).
The greatest threat to seagrasses throughout this region is land clearing with respect to agricultural - grazing and cropping and coastal/urban development. Land clearing with its inherent problems of soil erosion and associated loads of nutrients and pesticides are problematic for the long term survival of seagrasses that are already stressed by natural events.
Monitoring occurs on coastal seagrass habitats within the Bowen region. Below is a conceptual diagram of coastal seagrass habitat in the Bowen region. Whilst episodic riverine delivery of freshwater nutrients and sediment is a medium time scale factor in structuring coastal seagrass meadows in this region, the distribution of seagrasses along this coastline is predominately influenced by seasonal (April-November) south-easterly trade winds (Coles et al. 2007). Seagrass meadows generally establish in places that offer protection from these winds, such as the large north opening bays and the leeward sides of continental islands. The combination of seasonal terrestrial run-off, frequent cyclones, strong south-easterly trade winds and tidal runs create significant natural coastal turbidity. Seagrasses that inhabit this area are therefore, subjected to low light regimes, and high influxes of freshwater and sediment. To survive this regime seagrasses need to exhibit high vegetative growth rates and prolific seed banks. This has probably led to the predominance of opportunistic species, such as Halodule and Halophila within this region.