Lake Clifton, which is located south-west of Mandurah within the Yalgorup National Park, has odd, rock-like structures that can be seen close to the shoreline. These thrombolites are a type of microbialite and are formed by photosynthetic microbes that result in precipitation of calcium carbonate (limestone). Lake Clifton’s thrombolites are thought to have begun forming 1950 years ago and as such are relatively young. These, and similar structures, are evidence of the oldest life on earth.

Worldwide, microbialites are restricted to a few areas including the Bahamas and Bermuda internationally and several other locations along the Australia’s south-west coastline. Each of these communities is distinct and all are very significant in terms of their history and structure.

Lake Clifton supports the largest known examples of living non-marine microbialites in the southern hemisphere. They grow continuously and depend on an on-going input of fresh groundwater into their habitat that is carbonate-rich.


Threats to the Lake Clifton thrombolites include altered groundwater quality, increased salinity and declining alkalinity due to changing land uses in the surrounding areas, pollution, crushing by visitors or stock, introduction of exotic fauna such as snails and fish, and smothering by weeds or by sediment. To address the threat of crushing a boardwalk has been built to allow visitors a closer look at the thrombolites without impacting on them or their habitat.
“The Thrombolites was probably the most intriguing place I photographed. It was fascinating to shoot a location that transformed from minute to minute, making each shot more mysterious than the last. As the late afternoon light was disappearing, there was almost a sense of timelessness.”
Tim Swallow – Photographer