The Dales Ramsar site Ecological Character Description
Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities
About the document
An Ecological Character Description describes the ecological character of a wetland at the time of its listing as a Wetland of International Importance. The Ecological Character Description is a fundamental management tool for site managers, forming the basis of management planning and action as well as including guidance on site monitoring requirements to detect changes in the ecological character of the site.
The Dales Ramsar site is located on Christmas Island in the Indian Ocean. The Dales Ramsar site is located entirely within the Christmas Island National Park, in the west of the island, with the western boundary of the site extending to 50 metres seaward from the low water mark.
The Dales Ramsar site comprises a system of seven watercourses collectively known as "The Dales". Three of the Dales support permanent springs, No. 1 Dale, Hugh's Dale (No. 2 Dale) and Anderson Dale (No, 5 Dale). Darling Dale (No. 3 Dale), No. 4 Dale, Sydney's Dale (No. 6 Dale) and No. 7 Dale all support intermittent streams during the wet season.
The ecological character of a wetland is the sum of all the components, processes and services of that wetland. Ecosystem components are physical, chemical and biological parts of a wetland, from large-scale to very small-scale (e.g. habitat, species and genes). Ecosystem processes are the dynamic forces within an ecosystem. They include all those processes that occur between organisms and within and between populations and communities, including interactions with the non-living environment, that result in existing ecosystems and bring about changes in ecosystems over time. Ecosystem services are the benefits that people receive from ecosystems.
This document describes the critical components, processes and services for The Dales Ramsar site. The Dales has four critical components and processes: geomorphic setting; hydrology; land crabs; and waterbirds. It also has seven critical services: food webs; biodiversity; special ecological physical or geomorphic features; distinct or unique wetland species; threatened species, habitats and ecosystems; supports near natural wetland types; and ecological connectivity. The description also identifies limits of acceptable change which describe the range of variation which key aspects of the ecology of the site can vary without representing a change in the ecological character. Limits of acceptable change for The Dales have been proposed for all critical components, processes and benefits and services based on existing data.
This document also describes the current Ramsar listing criteria met by the site, the key threats and knowledge gaps for The Dales. Recommended monitoring needs and communication messages are also provided.
Further information on what Ecological Character Descriptions are and how critical components, processes and services are identified is available in the National Framework and Guidance for Describing the Ecological Character of Australian Ramsar Wetlands – Module 2 of the National Guidelines for Ramsar Wetlands – Implementing the Ramsar Convention in Australia.