Values and benefits derived from wetlands & monitoring Ramsar wetlands

Department of the Environment, 1998

Internal Report 285
Finlayson M
Supervising Scientist Division

About the report

Wetlands have many values and benefits that make them important for society. These include tangible returns from wetland products (eg fisheries, grazing, water) and less tangible returns from wetland functions (eg groundwater recharge, flood control, nutrient retention, recreation/tourism) and attributes (eg biological diversity, cultural heritage). In order to maintain, or even to enhance or restore them, the ecological processes that underpin the products, functions and attributes need to be maintained and the habitats managed in a sustainable manner.

Thus, wise use of wetlands provides the means by which wetland values and benefits are maintained. However, when faced with hard-nosed and user-pays commercial imperatives the values and benefits of wetlands do not seem to be well recognised. If this was not the case we would not still see the continuing loss and degradation of wetlands. Unless there is greater recognition of the values and benefits derived from wetlands we will struggle to make wise use and hence struggle to maintain them. In many parts of the world the value of wetlands is belatedly being recognised and ambitious restoration programs are now in place. However, despite the claims of slick commercial operators it is often impossible to actually replace the lost values, at least in the short-term, or over vast areas without the expenditure of vast sums of money. Millions of dollars are being spent on large projects that attempt to undo the damage of past eras. This in itself is recognition that we have lost values and we need to replace them.