Supervising Scientist Report 147
Finlayson CM & Spiers AG (eds)
Supervising Scientist, 1999
ISBN 0 642 24350 6
In recent years Australian governments have directed more and more attention towards the wise use and conservation of wetlands. This has resulted in a number of international initiatives such as hosting the 1996 Conference of the Ramsar Wetlands Convention, supporting the Ramsar Scientific and Technical Review Panel and initiating an Asia/Pacific wetland management training program. At a national level it has resulted in the development of specific federal and state wetland policies and a National Wetlands Program. The latter has provided support for a number of wetland projects, including the development of management plans for individual Ramsar sites and a directory of nationally important wetlands.
During the 1996 Ramsar Conference Australia strongly supported the adoption of Resolution 6.1 'Working Definitions of Ecological Character, Guidelines for Describing and Maintaining the Ecological Character of Listed Sites, and Guidelines for Operation of the Montreux Record'. This resolution called for a greater effort in wetland monitoring and a review of early warning systems for detecting adverse ecological change in wetlands.
In order to further develop the National Wetland Program and abide by Resolution 6.1 serious consideration has been given to the development of national approaches for wetland inventory and monitoring. As a consequence, the ANZECC Wetlands and Migratory Shorebirds Taskforce, consisting of representatives from all state/territory and the federal conservation/environment agencies, issued a recommendation supporting the development of a draft protocol for a national wetland inventory. In response, the Environment Australia (EA) Biodiversity Group obtained funding under the National Wetlands Program for a project aimed at developing a draft national wetland inventory proposal. The project, Technique Development and Databases for Enhanced Wetland Inventory in Northern Australia - Designing the Scope of the National Wetlands Inventory, is currently being undertaken by the Environmental Research Institute of the Supervising Scientist.
The scope of this ambitious project included four major tasks for wetland inventory and monitoring with a particular emphasis on northern Australia. These tasks are paraphrased below
- Review the information provided in the national wetland directory
- Assess the usefulness of remote sensing techniques for wetland inventory and monitoring
- Review the usefulness of early warning systems for wetland monitoring
- Draft protocols for a national approach to wetland inventory and monitoring
Reports on these four tasks are provided in this volume. As such they provide a basis for further decisions on the development and implementation of wetland inventory and monitoring programs in Australia and elsewhere.
In these reports it is stressed that whilst a great deal of wetland monitoring and inventory of Australian wetlands has occurred this has been uneven and fragmentary, and, in too many instances, poorly done. Over the same period a large but possibly indeterminate proportion of Australian wetlands has been degraded or lost. If this situation is to be reversed and we move forward into an era of not only preventing further loss but also recouping past losses, we will require a greatly enhanced inventory and monitoring effort. This effort is not beyond the technological expertise and experience that currently exists within Australia.