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Wetlands

Wetland loss relates to agricultural and other land uses including urban.

Great Barrier Reef

Wetland loss

Target: There will have been no net loss or degradation of natural wetlands.
Result: Good progress
wetland loss

Loss of wetlands declined from 0.10% (742ha) between 2001 and 2005 to 0.03% (255ha) between 2005 and 2009. The Burnett Mary region had the highest proportional loss of wetlands for 2001–2005 (0.33%) and 2005–2009 (0.23%).

Wetland systems extent

Approximately 734,000ha of wetlands are mapped in the Great Barrier Reef catchment which is approximately 1.7% of the total area. Of these wetland areas:

  • There are 262,000ha of vegetated freshwater swamps (palustrine wetlands). These areas occur with the greatest density in the small coastal catchments with extensive lowlands such as the Jacky Jacky Creek, Mulgrave-Russell, Murray, Water Park Creek and Shoalwater catchments.
  • There are 21,000ha of lakes (lacustrine wetlands).
  • There are 451,000ha of mangroves/salt flats (estuarine wetlands). These wetlands occur in the greatest density in catchments such as the Jacky Jacky Creek, Murray, Haughton, Ross, Plane Creek, Shoalwater, Styx and Water Park Creek.

In addition to the above natural and modified wetlands, there were 150,000ha of artificial and highly modified wetlands (e.g. dams) mapped across the Great Barrier Reef catchment in 2009.

Recent change in extent

Graph data (.csv, 1 KB)

Wetland loss continued between 2005 and 2009 although the rate was substantially lower than between 2001 and 2005. The greatest reduction in the rate of loss of wetlands was in the Wet Tropics region, down from 0.30% (239ha) between 2001 and 2005 to 0.04% (30ha) between 2005 and 2009.

Loss of vegetated freshwater swamps between 2001 and 2005 was 0.24% (over 624ha) across the Great Barrier Reef catchments. This reduced to 0.10% (257ha) between 2005 and 2009. Between 2001 and 2005, the loss of vegetated freshwater swamps was greater than 1% in the Herbert, Mossman, Murray, Kolan, and Mary catchments. Between 2005 and 2009, the loss of vegetated freshwater swamps was greater than 1% in the Black, Pioneer and Kolan catchments.

The loss of mangroves/salt flats between 2001 and 2005 was 0.05% (219ha) which reduced to 0.02% (72ha) between 2005 and 2009.

Lakes increased in overall extent between 2001 and 2005 (101ha) and 2005 and 2009 (73ha). These increases are due to modifying existing wetlands by levees and similar structures. Similar modifications in some catchments are associated with small increases in the extent of swamps (Don and Proserpine) and mangroves/salt flats (Burrum) between 2005 and 2009.

Historical change in extent

Graph data (.csv, 1 KB)

Historically, 17% of wetlands have been lost from pre-European extent. Some areas are less impacted with Cape York still having 100% of wetlands remaining. In terms of specific wetland systems, 23% of vegetated freshwater swamps have been lost across the Great Barrier Reef catchments from pre-European extent.

Loss of vegetated freshwater swamps from pre-European extent has been high in the Wet Tropics and Mackay Whitsunday regions with 51% and 42% lost respectively. Many smaller coastal catchments with extensive lowlands have undergone widespread loss of freshwater swamps with greater than 80% loss in the Kolan, Pioneer, Calliope and Barron catchments. This loss mainly relates to drainage, clearing and levelling of lowlands and parts of catchments associated with intensive agriculture or urban use.

Over 90% of pre-European extent of mangroves and salt flats remain in most catchments, except for Barron, Mulgrave, Russell, Pioneer, Boyne, Fitzroy, Shoalwater, Burnett and Kolan.

Generally, there has been no major reduction in lakes compared to their pre-European extent.


Cape York

Wetland loss

There was no historical loss of wetlands and no change in extent over the 2001–2005 or 2005–2009 periods.

Wetland systems extent

There are approximately 184,300ha of wetlands in the Cape York region. Of these wetland areas:

  • There are 59,200ha of vegetated freshwater swamps (palustrine wetlands). The greatest density of vegetated freshwater swamps is in the Jacky Jacky catchment.
  • There are 6200ha of lakes (lacustrine wetlands).
  • There are 118,900ha of mangroves/salt flats (estuarine wetlands). These wetlands occur in the greatest density in the Jacky Jacky, Jeannie and Lockhart catchments.

Historical and recent change in extent

The Cape York region recorded no historical loss of wetlands compared to pre-European extent and no changes in extent over the 2001 to 2005 or 2005 to 2009 periods.


Wet Tropics

Wetland loss

Loss of wetlands between 2005 and 2009 was 0.04% (30ha). This is 209ha less than 2001–2005.

Wetland systems extent

There are approximately 79,000ha of wetlands in the Wet Tropics region. Of these wetland areas:

  • There are 35,000ha of vegetated freshwater swamps (palustrine wetlands). The greatest density of vegetated freshwater swamps is in the Herbert and Russell-Mulgrave catchments.
  • There are 700ha of lakes (lacustrine wetlands).
  • There are 43,300h of mangroves/salt flats (estuarine wetlands). These wetlands occur in the greatest density in the Murray and Herbert catchments.

Recent change in extent

Graph data (.csv, 1 KB)

The greatest reduction in the rate of loss of wetlands was in the Mossman catchment, down from 0.96% (18ha) between 2001 and 2005 to 0.01% (0.3ha) between 2005 and 2009. The loss of vegetated freshwater swamps between 2001 and 2005 was 0.62% (219ha). Between 2005 and 2009 this reduced to 0.08% (29ha). There was a small loss of mangroves/salt flats between 2001 and 2005 of 0.05% (20ha) but no change in extent between 2005 and 2009.

Historical change in extent

Graph data (.csv, 1 KB)

The Wet Tropics region recorded the highest loss of vegetated freshwater swamps (51%) from pre-European extent compared to all other Great Barrier Reef regions. The Barron catchment had significant historical loss of vegetated freshwater swamps with only 19% remaining from pre-European extent. 93% of mangrove and salt flats remain from pre-European extent.

Burdekin

Wetland loss

Loss of wetlands remained relatively constant at 0.03% when comparing 2001–2005 with 2005–2009 (35ha).

Wetland systems extent

There are approximately 138,000ha of wetlands in the Burdekin region. Of these wetland areas:

  • There are 62,500ha of vegetated freshwater swamps (palustrine wetlands). The greatest density of vegetated freshwater swamps is in the Ross and Haughton catchments.
  • There are 8300ha of lakes (lacustrine wetlands).
  • There are 67,200ha of mangroves/salt flats (estuarine wetlands). These wetlands occur in the greatest density in the Don, Haughton and Ross catchments.

Recent change in extent

Graph data (.csv, 1 KB)

The loss of vegetated freshwater swamps between 2001 and 2005 was 0.1% (83ha), with a similar loss between 2005 and 2009. The loss of mangroves and salt flats reduced from 0.03% (20ha) between 2001 and 2005 to 0% (3ha) between 2005 and 2009. There were slight increases (100ha) in the extent of lakes between 2001 and 2005 and 2005 and 2009 associated with local hydrological modifications.

Historical change in extent

Graph data (.csv, 1 KB)

Historically, 10% of wetlands have been lost from pre-European extent. The loss of vegetated freshwater swamps from pre-European extent across the region was 18%, with 48% and 35% loss in the Don and Haughton catchments respectively. Only 3% of mangroves and salt flats have been lost from pre-European extent.


Mackay Whitsunday

Wetland loss

Loss of wetlands remained relatively constant when comparing 2001–2005 (0.02%) with 2005–2009 (0.01%).

Wetland systems extent

There are approximately 58,000ha of wetlands in the Mackay Whitsunday region. Of these wetland areas:

  • There are 10,100ha of freshwater swamps (palustrine wetlands). The Plane Creek catchment has the greatest density of vegetated freshwater swamps.
  • There are 200ha of lakes (lacustrine wetlands). The Proserpine catchment has the greatest area of lake wetlands.
  • There are 47,700ha of mangroves/salt flats (estuarine wetlands).

Recent change in extent

Graph data (.csv, 1 KB)

The loss of vegetated freshwater swamps between 2001 and 2005 and 2005 and 2009 was 0.04% (less than 5ha). Approximately 10ha of mangroves/salt flats were lost between 2001 and 2005 and 2005 and 2009.

Historical change in extent

Graph data (.csv, 1 KB)

89% of all wetlands remain from pre-European extent. The loss of vegetated freshwater swamps from pre-European extent was 42%. The Pioneer and O‘Connell catchments had significant loss of vegetated freshwater swamps from pre-European extent with 83% and 56% loss respectively. 97% of mangrove and salt flats remain across the region.


Fitzroy

Wetland loss

Loss of wetlands between 2005 and 2009 was 0.03% (68ha). This was 203ha less than 2001–2005.

Wetland systems extent

There are approximately 222,600ha of wetlands in the Fitzroy region. Of these wetland areas:

  • There are 67,000ha of vegetated freshwater swamps (palustrine wetlands). The greatest density of vegetated freshwater swamps is in the Shoalwater and Water Park catchments.
  • There are 5300ha of lakes (lacustrine wetlands).
  • There are 150,300ha of mangroves/salt flats (estuarine wetlands).

Recent change in extent

Graph data (.csv, 1 KB)

The loss of vegetated freshwater swamps between 2001 and 2005 was 0.20% (132ha), with this loss derived entirely from the Fitzroy and Styx catchments. The loss of vegetated freshwater swamps reduced to 0.04% (29ha) between 2005 and 2009. The loss of mangroves and saltflats decreased to 0.04% (58ha) between 2005 and 2009.

Historical change in extent

Graph data (.csv, 1 KB)

Historically, 22% of wetlands have been lost from pre-European extent. The loss of vegetated freshwater swamps from pre-European extent was 19%. However, this figure is influenced by the increase in vegetated freshwater swamps in the Styx and Shoalwater catchments. This is due to converting estuarine plains to freshwater wetlands by damming, which is a common practice in many coastal catchments.

The Calliope catchment has undergone the greatest loss of vegetated freshwater swamps across all Great Barrier Reef catchments with 89% loss from pre-European extent. The Fitzroy and Boyne catchments also had significant loss of vegetated freshwater swamps from pre-European extent, with only 45% and 31% remaining respectively. 85% of mangroves and salt flats remain across the region, associated with converting to freshwater swamps mainly in the Shoalwater catchment.


Burnett Mary

Wetland loss

The Burnett Mary region had the greatest loss of wetlands of all the regions between 2005 and 2009, losing 0.23% (118ha). This was a decrease from 0.33% (173ha) between 2001 and 2005.

Wetland systems extent

There are approximately 52,000ha of wetlands in the Burnett Mary region. Of these wetland areas:

  • There are 27,800ha of vegetated freshwater swamps (palustrine wetlands). The greatest density of vegetated freshwater swamps is in the Baffle catchment.
  • There are 400ha of lakes (lacustrine wetlands).
  • There are 23,800ha of mangroves/salt flats (estuarine wetlands). These wetlands occur in the greatest density in the Baffle catchment.

Recent change in extent

Graph data (.csv, 2 KB)

Losses were mainly from vegetated freshwater swamps which decreased by 0.67% (186ha) between 2001 and 2005 and by 0.43% (119ha) between 2005 and 2009. This was the highest proportional loss of vegetated freshwater swamps of all the Great Barrier Reef regions. The rate of loss of vegetated freshwater swamps increased in the Baffle Creek catchment from 0.41% (44ha) to 0.65% (70ha). Although reduced from 2001 to 2005, the loss of vegetated freshwater swamps in the Kolan catchment was one of the highest of all the Great Barrier Reef catchments between 2005 and 2009 (1.50%).

The extent of lakes increased between 2001 and 2005 by 8.27% (30ha) associated with modifications due to earth works. No change in lake extent was recorded between 2005 and 2009. There was no loss of mangroves/salt flats between 2005 and 2009.

Historical change in extent

Graph data (.csv, 2 KB)

Historically, 30% of wetlands have been lost from pre-European extent. 37% of vegetated freshwater swamps have been lost from pre-European extent. The Kolan, Burnett and Mary catchments recorded substantial loss of wetlands with only 16%, 40% and 45% of vegetated freshwater swamps remaining respectively. This loss is particularly prevalent in the lowlands of these catchments. 97% of mangroves and salt flats remain for the region.


Last updated:
27 August, 2014
Last reviewed:
8 July, 2013

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