Wetlands and Biodiversity
Wetlands are a critical part of our natural environment, and play a key role in supporting Australia’s biological diversity. Wetlands support waterbird, fish, amphibian, reptile and plant species during important life stages by providing roosting, nesting and feeding habitat as well as refuge during extreme weather conditions. They also form corridor or stepping stone habitats that support the migration of species, including waterbirds and marine mammals.
The biodiversity of Australia’s wetlands is unique, ranging from waterbirds that migrate thousands of kilometres from Russia and China, to rare plants and animals that have adapted to the highly variable wetting and drying cycles of the Australian landscape. Biodiversity has environmental and social value. Where wetlands have healthy biodiversity, they provide essential services to the environment and to our communities – providing and drought and providing recreational, cultural and, in some cases, spiritual benefits.>
Biodiversity in aquatic ecosystems within Australia and in surrounding coastal waters can be affected by human activities which change natural patterns of wetting and drying, frequency and magnitude of flow and floods, water quality and the condition of fringing and in-stream habitats. Invasive species also threaten biodiversity by degrading habitat and out-competing or preying on native species. These cumulative impacts undermine the capacity of wetlands to continue to support biodiversity, as well as reduce the resilience of wetlands to respond to ongoing threats and pressures. They can also undermine the economic benefits of wetlands for nearby communities, for example commercial and recreational fishing.>
While these pressures affect a range of wetland species, of particular concern is the impact on waterbirds which rely on healthy wetlands for their lifecycle. Some of Australia’s most vulnerable species are waterbirds – the Australian painted snipe (Rostratula australis) and the Australasian bittern (Botaurus poiciloptilus) are listed as endangered both nationally and globally.