Lady Elliot Island first appeared above sea level roughly 3,500 years ago as a coral rubble spit. Over the next 3,000 years, storms deposited shingle ridges known as ‘berms’ and coarse coral rubble providing a suitable resting point for various seabirds. Guano (seabird droppings) fertilized the soil, providing suitable conditions to form the mature, vegetated coral cay seen today.

Seabirds nesting over thousands of years ensured the island was recgonised as a rich source of guano. Guano mining conducted on LEI (1863-1873) resulted in the removal of all the vegetation except for a few Pisonia trees which still remain today near the pool. Roughly one metre of surface soil (20,000 tons of guano) was removed from the island during this period. Guano was a valuable fertiliser and gunpowder ingredient.

Humans continued to have an effect on the island ecology by introducing goats as a food source for standard sailors and the lighthouse keepers. Goats are extremely hardy and graze any vegetation that would start to grow (even eating the algae from the reef flat at low tide).

The island remained mostly barred for almost 100 years until an active revegetation program was initiated by Sir Don Adams in the 1960’s and is continued by our team today.


The aim of the Lady Elliot Island Revegetation Plan is to revegetate the Island with native ‘coral cay’ species and providing habitat for important flora and fauna. Our plan includes the removal and control of many introduced species.

The vegetation species shown in the below plan are just some of the trees, shrubs, plants and grasses which will be planted or removed.

Vegetation buffer planting will be established around parts of the resort, airstrip, Lighthouse Heritage precinct and Waste Management Facility. This will provide aesthetic screening, assist in the management of some plant species, and reduce the potential for disturbances of nesting seabirds and turtles.

To maintain Cultural Heritage values, non-invasive plant species introduced by the lighthouse keepers will be retained within the Lighthouse Heritage precinct.

Since inception of the revegetation program over 4,000 trees have been planted on Lady Elliot Island with over 1,000 within with past 12 months.

Take a glimpse into the future of Lady Elliot Island…