Lady Elliot Island appeared as a sand cay approximetely 3500 years ago.Sea birds started to rest on the cay, bringing with them seeds necessary to establish vegetation. Bare sand is not an ideal home for plants, but hardy pioneer species are able to colonise and make it a more suitable environment for other plants to grow.
Because of the abundant birdlife on the island over thousands of years, it was found to be a rich source of guano (bird droppings), a substance high ion phospherous used as a fertiliser. From 1863 to 1873 guano was mined from Lady Elliot Island. This extraction was extremely destructive, removing 2-3 feet of top soil and most of the vegetation, except for the small group of pisonia trees next to the pool. After this period, the island was left barren.
in 1969, Don Adams laid the airstrip on Lady Elliot Island and began a revegetation program using shrubs and seedlings mnative to the Capricorn Bunker group of islands. Don Adams received a Conservation award in 1992 for his efforts in revegetating Lady Elliot Island.
The first types of vegetation to colonise a coral cay are grasses. these plants are very tolerant of harsh coditions, such as minimal water, high temeperatures and strong winds. This vegetation stabilises the sediment, allowing larger bushes and tress to grow.