Indicator: IW-27 Extent of significant wetlands (incl. Ramsar)

Data

Number and area of Ramsar sites in each Australian jurisdiction
No. of sites Area (ha)
Australian Capital Territory 1 343
Commonwealth 4 1 376 062
New South Wales 9 74 382
Northern Territory 1 220 700
Queensland 5 632 374
South Australia 4 2 154 300
Tasmania 10 26 207
Victoria 10 306 844
Western Australia 12 517 970
Total 56 5 309 182

Source: Department of the Environment and Heritage 2001, A Directory of Important wetlands in Australia, Third Edition, viewed 10 Nov 2005, http://www.deh.gov.au/water/
wetlands/database/directory/index.html

Number of nationally important wetlands and approximate area in each jurisdiction
No. of Sites (C'wealth owned or managed) Area (ha) Number of wetlands with threatened water regimes*
Australian Capital Territory 13 (0) 1 257 4
New South Wales 178 (6) 2 334 734 38
Northern Territory 33 (4) 4 033 230 7
Queensland 181 (8) 42 875 159 42
South Australia 69 (1) 4 223 988 19
Tasmania 89 (0) 51 514 13
Victoria 159 (4) 557 888 57
Western Australia 120 (8) 2 583 325 51
External Territories 9 (9) 1 168 427
Total 851 (40) 57 829 522

Source: Department of the Environment and Heritage 2001, A Directory of Important wetlands in Australia, Third Edition, viewed 10 Nov 2005, http://www.deh.gov.au/water/wetlands/database/directory/index.html

* Source: Davis, J, Froend, R, Hamilton, D, Horwitz, P, McComb, A, Oldham, C and Thomas, D 2001, Environmental water requirements to maintain wetland of national and International importance, Environment Australia, viewed 14 Dec 2005, http://www.deh.gov.au/water/rivers/nrhp/wetlands/index.html.

Threats to wetlands include: change in drainage due to peat moss extraction, walkers, cattle and sheep trampling, channels dug for sheep watering holes, drainage, irrigation, sedimentation, water diversion, river regulation, levees, dams sand weirs, water storage, mining, saltwater intrusion, groundwater extraction, prolonged inundation (tree deaths), potentially changed flooding regimes due to clearing for horticulture/mixed farming, siltation through overgrazing, aquifer draw down caused by water harvesting from the Great Artesian Basin, road and drain construction, tourist and recreational development, altered hydrology to prevent tidal intrusion, road crossing, urban expansion, discharge from sewerage treatment plant and disposal of saline groundwater.

Ninety percent of floodplain wetlands in the Murray-Darling Basin, 50% of coastal wetlands in New South Wales and 75% of wetlands on the Swan Coastal Plain in south-west Western Australia have been lost due to altered flow regimes.

Source: Arthington, AH 2002, 'Environmental flows: ecological importance, methods and lessons from Australia', Mekong Dialogue Workshop, "International transfer of river basin development experience: Australia and the Mekong region", vol. 2 September 2002, p. 8.

Source: Arthington,Angela, H 2002, Enviromental flows:ecological importance, methods and lessons from Australia, Conference-International transfer of river basin develop experience: Australia and the Mecong region, viewed 10 Nov 2005, http://www.mekong.es.usyd.edu.au/
events/past/Conference2002/angela_arthington.pdf.

Current and potential threats to wetland water regimes mapped according to IBRA regions

Current and potential threats to wetland water regimes mapped according to IBRA regions

Source: Davis, J, Froend, R, Hamilton, D, Horwitz, P, McComb, A, Oldham, C and Thomas, D 2001, Environmental water requirements to maintain wetlands of National and International importance, Environmental Flows Initiative Technical Report No. 1, Environment Australia, Canberra, viewed 11 Oct 2005, http://www.deh.gov.au/water/rivers/nrhp/wetlands/index.html.

What the data mean

Ramsar sites comprise about 5 million hectares in Australia and 57 million hectares of wetlands are afforded a degree of protection through listing as nationally important wetlands. However about 230 nationally important wetlands are under pressure from one or more sources.

Issues for which this is an indicator and why

Inland Waters - Habitat scale influences - Wetlands 

Although extent of wetlands is to some extent seasonal, long term trends in extent of wetlands is a surrogate indicator for condition of wetlands.

Other indicators for this issue:

Inland Waters - Catchment scale influences - Hydrological condition - Ecological aspects of river flow regimes 

Although extent of wetlands is to some extent seasonal, long term trends in extent of wetlands is a surrogate indicator for condition of wetlands and both extent and condition of wetlands are in turn indicative of the ecology of river flow regimes.

Other indicators for this issue:

Inland Waters - Response of biota - Waterbirds 

Waterbirds as wetland animals are vulnerable to changes in the extent and condition of wetlands and extent of wetlands may therefore be a surrogate indicator for the condition of waterbird populations.

Other indicators for this issue:

Inland Waters - Response of biota - Wetland and floodplain communities 

Wetland biota generally are vulnerable to changes in the extent and condition of wetlands and extent of wetlands may therefore be a surrogate indicator for the condition of wetland biota.

Other indicators for this issue:

Biodiversity - Pressures on biodiversity - Changed hydrology 

Although extent of wetlands is to some extent seasonal, long term trends in extent of wetlands is a surrogate indicator for condition of wetlands, and both extent and condition of wetlands are in turn indicative of changes in hydrology more generally.

Other indicators for this issue:

Biodiversity - Species, habitats and ecological communities - Condition of wetlands and riparian vegetation 

Although extent of wetlands is to some extent seasonal, long term trends in extent of wetlands is a surrogate indicator for condition of wetlands, and both extent and condition of wetlands are in turn indicative of the condition of wetland vegetation.

Other indicators for this issue:

Biodiversity - Species, habitats and ecological communities - Condition of freshwater biodiversity 

Although extent of wetlands is to some extent seasonal, long term trends in extent of wetlands is a surrogate indicator for condition of wetlands, and both extent and condition of wetlands are in turn indicative of the condition of wetland biodiversity, including aquatic biodiversity.

Other indicators for this issue:

Biodiversity - Landscapes - Ecosystem diversity 

Wetland ecosystems are one of the most complex and productive, forming a vital link in the food chain. Although extent of wetlands is to some extent seasonal, long term trends in extent of wetlands is a surrogate indicator for condition of wetlands, and both extent and condition of wetlands are in turn indicative of ecosystem diversity more generally.

Other indicators for this issue:

Further Information

Directory of Important Wetlands in Australia:

  • Australian Wetlands Database
  • Environmental Water Requirements to Maintain Wetlands of National and International Importance (Davis et al. 2001)
  • The availability of wetland habitat for waterbirds in arid Australia (Roshier et al. 2001)

Victorian wetlands:

Eastern Australia Aerial Survey: