Wetlands play many important roles in supporting biodiversity and ecosystem processes. They provide habitat for migratory birds and fish as well as many other plant and animal species. Wetlands have the potential to enhance water quality as they act as natural filters for our water. They also have a significant role in the movement of water across our landscapes, helping reduce the destructive impact of flood waters by storing and slowly releasing water.
Loss and degradation of coastal wetlands is an important issue for the Great Barrier Reef, so protecting and restoring wetlands is a priority to improve the Reef health.
The 20 most important wetlands for restoration were identified, from a list of 40 important regional wetlands. The prioritisation process undertaken considered:
- wetland values, such as fisheries habitat, species richness and wetland condition
- threats to the wetlands, such as weeds, pollution and local land use
- the capacity for restoration, such as the level of protection the wetland has, feasibility and financial incentives.
Shoalwater and Corio Bay are Ramsar wetlands, listed under the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of International Importance. They were excluded from this analysis as they are already priorities for protection and management. A Management Support website has been developed by FBA to increase awareness of the significance of the Shoalwater and Corio Bays area. The site includes a digital assessment tool that revolutionises the way partners and collaborators collect and share essential data for meaningful wetland decision making. Other wetlands that are currently receiving funding from FBA were also not included in the prioritisation process, namely Kinka wetland and Fitzroy flood plains.
High priority wetlands scored highly across all three of these criteria: having high values, capacity for restoration and implementation of on-ground works, and facing significant threats. These wetlands will be prioritised for wetland restoration projects.
It is important to note this prioritisation will change based on the desired purpose of works. For example, is the purpose of the works to protect a system that is healthy and providing valuable ecosystem services from becoming degraded? Perhaps the purpose of works is to restore a degraded wetland that has a high potential to provide value ecosystem services? Both these outcomes are valuable but both would require a different interpretation of the tools used to prioritise the below wetlands. A detailed description of the approach used and the strengths and limitation of the process can be found here. A conceptual diagram of how the above information was integrated to form the final prioritisation below can be found here.