Wetlands are areas whether natural, modified or artificial, subject to permanent or temporary inundation, that hold static or very slow moving water and develop, or have the potential to develop, biota adapted to inundation and the aquatic environment.

Wetlands may be formed by natural processes  or human activities. Wetlands include freshwater and  saline lakes, swamps and shallow waters in Victoria's estuaries, bays and inlets.

The international treaty on wetlands, the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, uses a broader definition of wetlands which also includes rivers and other shallow marine waters. For details refer to the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands website

Wetlands provide many values to the community.

  • Traditional Owners and Aboriginal people have used wetlands over many tens of thousands of years and they are an important part of Aboriginal cultural heritage.
  • Wetlands act as sediment traps and filter nutrients from catchments. This helps protect the water quality of rivers, estuaries and marine areas.
  • Wetlands reduce the impacts of flooding by holding and slowing floodwater.
  • Wetlands provide habitat for native plants such as river red gum (Eucalyptus camaldulensis), mangroves, saltmarshes and for native animals such as waterbirds, frogs and fish.
  • Wetlands provide a range of recreational opportunities such as boating, camping, bird watching, fishing and duck hunting which help to support tourism and local economies.

Many wetlands in Victoria are recognised for their environmental significance. For more information visit Significant wetlands.

The Ramsar Convention was signed in 1971 at an international meeting in the town of Ramsar, in Iran. It is an intergovernmental treaty that provides the framework for national action and international cooperation for the conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources. For more information on the convention visit the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands website.

DELWP is responsible for implementing Ramsar obligations in Victoria. DELWP works with other State government agencies, land and water managers and the Australian Government to promote the wise use of wetlands.

The Victorian Waterway Management Strategy sets out the policy for managing Victoria's rivers, estuaries and wetlands.

Detailed information concerning the strategy can be found here.

Wetlands are a critical component of our environment. Some wetlands are considered of international importance (Ramsar wetlands) and in Australia, some are considered to be of national significance and are listed in the Directory of Important Wetlands of Australia.

Long-term monitoring of wetlands

A method for monitoring wetlands in Victoria has been developed to provide an efficient and affordable approach to detect when wetlands are inundated, monitor changes over time in the water regime, extent and vegetation cover.

Wetland intervention monitoring

Understanding how wetland ecosystems change in response to management will improve the efficiency, effectiveness and long-term benefits of wetland management in Victoria. The wetland intervention monitoring program is a long-term intervention monitoring program aimed at demonstrating the response of wetlands to management activities. It is being undertaken on a selection of sites around Victoria by waterway managers in conjunction with landholders.

The program uses a robust experimental design to measure ecological responses to management interventions, such as weed management and changes to grazing regimes, and understand sources of variability. The program ensures that knowledge gained through monitoring and evaluation is used to improve delivery standards that underpin wetland investment and to communicate the benefits of management delivered through initiatives such as the Wetland Tender.

Livestock grazing can be used in some circumstances to improve wetland condition. Phase 1 of this program focuses on understanding how wetland vegetation responds when cattle or sheep grazing is changed in some way with the aim to improve wetland condition. Phase 1 commenced in 2017 and will run until 2020. The results will help identify ways to undertake grazing management to maintain or improve wetland condition.

Download a fact sheet on the wetland intervention monitoring program.

Index of Wetland Condition

Victoria's Index of Wetland Condition is a standard method developed for the assessment of wetland condition. It is based on the state of the biological, physical and chemical components of the wetland ecosystem and their interactions.

Victoria's wetland inventory was updated in 2014 and brings together the most recent wetland data sets from a number of sources. It updates the state's first wetland inventory, which was completed in 1994.

Victoria's classification of wetlands was also updated in 2014. The new wetland classification framework is described in a 2016 report. The report explains each attribute used in the classification framework, the categories for the attribute, methods and data sources for assigning the categories to individual wetlands.

The new classification framework for Victoria is based on the Australian National Aquatic Ecosystem Classification Framework. For information on the framework visit the Australian Government Department of the Environment website.

Data on wetlands and their classification attributes can be found in the Victorian wetland inventory geodatabase: Victorian Wetland Inventory (Current). An additional data set, Victorian Wetland Inventory (Pre-European) contains updated information on the extent of wetlands at the time of European settlement. Both can be accessed here. The interactive mapping tool MapShareVic can be used to view and produce wetland maps.

The Victorian Wetland Inventory Edit Tool is designed to access the knowledge and expertise of individuals to improve Victoria’s wetland inventory. People can contribute to the improvement of the inventory by registering and suggesting changes to the attributes of wetlands included in the Victorian Wetland Inventory (Current) spatial layer.

For further information head to: http://essolutions.com.au/wetlandedittool

World Wetlands Day 

World Wetlands Day is on 2 February every year. It celebrates our wetlands and aims to raise awareness about how urban wetlands contribute to the future of sustainable cities.

It also marks the date of the signing of the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance (the Ramsar Convention).

Find out more

Page last updated: 22/03/19