Reasons for the continuing loss and degradation of Australian wetlands

Department of the Environment, 1998

Internal Report 290
Finlayson CM
Supervising Scientist Division

About the report

Wetland loss and degradation in Australia has been severe and is still occurring. Much of the scientific attention to wetland management has been directed towards the apparent (or ecological) reasons for wetland loss and degradation — changes to the water regime, physical modification of the habitat, eutrophication and other pollution, and invasion by exotic pest species. Lists of threats to wetlands have been compiled, but these rarely address the non-ecological reasons that are behind the loss and degradation of wetlands. For wetland loss and degradation to be stopped and reversed awareness and understanding about the non-ecological causes of wetland loss and degradation need to be as well understood as the ecological causes.

Greater attention needs to be directed towards the following issues —  economic development in wetlands, bureaucratic obstacles, lack of information or poor access to information, and poor general awareness of the values and benefits derived from wetlands. Further we need to acknowledge that wetland loss and degradation does not need to happen — our wetlands are valuable and already severely degraded. For this situation to be rectified do we need further knowledge and expertise? Do we need further wetland science?