It has a combined area of 2,142 square kilometres and is made up of five local government areas and French Island. It contains a mix of landscapes: National and Marine Parks, rural agriculture and urban-growth areas. Dotted with beautiful swimming beaches, sea-side townships and vineyards in picturesque settings, the Biosphere is a tourist destination for millions of Australians and overseas visitors every year. A major draw-card of the Biosphere Reserve is the wonderful diversity of flora and fauna including breeding colonies of the Little Penguin, Koala, Australian Fur Seal, Hooded Plover and Short-tailed Shearwater.
As well as being a key destination for tourists and those who love the unique environment, Western Port Biosphere is popular with researchers and scientists. It has numerous sites of geomorphological and historical significance and is a region of great biological diversity due to an unusually wide range of habitat types. Western Port Biosphere hosts many significant indigenous plant species and communities, including rare, threatened and vulnerable species such as the endangered Southern Brown Bandicoot.
Western Port is listed under the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance, especially as habitat for migratory species under the Ramsar Convention.
In future, following community consultation and government approval, it is proposed to nominate an extended area of the Western Port catchment as Stage 2 of the Biosphere Reserve. This would increase its area to about 3400 square kilometres.
Western Port was chosen as a Biosphere Reserve because it has outstanding natural values, including a Ramsar wetland of international importance, on the fringe of the expanding city of Melbourne.
It is an area of great biological diversity due to its unusually wide range of habitat types. These range from deep channels to seagrass meadows, mangroves, saltmarsh and melaleuca thickets. It supports a large number of marine invertebrates and about 65% of Victoria’s bird species. Western Port is listed under the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance, especially as waterfowl habitat (Ramsar Convention). Many of the migratory birds using the area are listed under international agreements, including JAMBA, CAMBA , ROKAMBA and the Bonn Agreement.
The Western Port Biosphere Reserve region is made up of five local government council areas including Bass Coast Shire, Cardinia Shire, City of Casey, Frankston City and the Mornington Peninsula Shire.
The Biosphere has a population of approximately 670,000 residents, with an increase of more than 100,000 during peak seasons. The Biosphere has a mix of industries including agriculture and tourism and demographics range from young families through to retirees.