Wetlands Australia: National Wetlands Update 2009

Issue No. 17
Annual update for Australia's wetland community, January 2009
ISSN 1446-4843

Welcome to the 2009 edition of Wetlands Australia, an annual publication by the Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts. Wetlands Australia brings together information and resources from across Australia relating to wetlands conservation, management and education.

Editions of Wetlands Australia are also available, see:

Ministers' Foreword to Wetlands Australia 2009

Wetlands are vital features of our environment, providing habitat for birds, animals and plants, and ecosystem services for people. Wetlands connect us all. Our actions in turn affect the health of wetlands. This interconnected relationship is the theme for 2009 World Wetlands Day - “Upstream Downstream” - and is the focus of this edition of Wetlands Australia.

The Australian Government has recognised the importance of wetlands through Caring for our Country, a $2.25 billion, five year initiative to deliver a new, coordinated approach to environmental management in Australia, built on a set of consistent national targets. Funding will target the most efficient and effective ways to take action and the organisations that are best placed to deliver this. Our goal is an environment that is healthy, better protected, well-managed, resilient and provides essential ecosystem services in a changing climate.

Wetlands and healthy rivers are also a priority under the $12.9 billion, 10 year Water for the Future plan, which will help prepare Australia for climate change and reduced water availability. Through Water for the Future, the Australian Government is investing in more efficient water use and developing new sources of water to reduce our reliance on rainfall, including desalination, stormwater harvesting and recycling.

The government is also purchasing water entitlements from willing sellers to return water to the environment. These water purchases are underway in the Murray-Darling Basin where water has been overdrawn for many years. This over-allocation along with the drought and impacts of climate change have resulted in severely stressed rivers and wetlands. Restoring their health will improve the outlook for water-dependent species and ecosystems, and for the communities that live in the Basin.

Wetlands are among the most productive ecosystems on Earth and provide important ecosystem services for people: good quality water for irrigation and domestic use; removal of wastes and contaminants; habitat for fish and other important aquatic fauna and flora; and aesthetic, cultural and recreational benefits. As a border between terrestrial and aquatic environments they provide strategic refuge for many species in times of drought. Wetlands contain a wide diversity of life and often support plants and animals that are found nowhere else.

Without enough water, rivers, wetlands, floodplains, riparian areas, springs and other water-dependent ecosystems will deteriorate and the services these ecosystems provide will be compromised. In some cases, these changes may be irreversible; in others, they may be difficult and costly to reverse.

In this edition you can see the true spirit of the nation's environmental actions, not of government alone but a partnership of the Australian, State, Territory and Local Governments, communities, industry and landholders. Whether it's planting trees, monitoring water quality in a local stream or helping to protect endangered species, every action makes a difference. This publication acknowledges these efforts.

These stories here are a snapshot of thousands of inspiring stories around the nation. As you read them, think about your local wetland and its interconnections with the environment around it: look at how the wetland benefits your surroundings and how activities throughout the catchment affect your wetland.

Senator the Hon Penny Wong
Minister for Climate Change and Water

The Hon Peter Garrett AM MP
Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts