National overview of monitoring frameworks and tools for Ramsar sites

Project start date: 18/07/2022
Project end date: 30/06/2023
NESP funding: $176,446 (GST-exclusive)

The Ramsar Convention on Wetlands was signed in 1971, with international governments committing to protecting the world’s wetlands. One of Australia’s key obligations is to maintain the ecological character of its internationally listed Ramsar wetlands through partnerships between the Australian Government, state and territory governments, and non-government site managers.

Australia has 66 Ramsar wetlands that cover more than 8.3 million hectares. Each Ramsar wetland has unique pressures on its ecological character and subsequently requires appropriate monitoring with context-specific indicators to understand changes in condition. This project is developing a better understanding of the monitoring frameworks that could be appropriate for use at Ramsar sites to guide the development of tools and capacity that could assist with monitoring and managing Ramsar wetlands.

Currently, there are numerous approaches to wetland monitoring across Australia’s 66 Ramsar sites. These approaches have evolved from the governance of water, biodiversity, catchment and protected-area management across the different levels of Australian governments. Subsequently, there is no evidence about the suitability of these often-differing approaches to:

  • detect the impact of dominant spatial and temporal pressures
  • provide adequate information to managers to meet obligations for ecological character
  • provide a basis to adaptively manage these dynamic systems and build resilience to events induced by climate change.

Australia Ramsar site map

Map showing the locations of Australia’s Ramsar wetlands. Image: Resilient Landscapes Hub.

Key research areas

To address this challenge and equip Ramsar site managers with the best frameworks, tools and knowledge to continue ensuring the ecological condition of Australia’s 66 Ramsar wetlands, this project is:

  • understanding the range of anthropogenic pressures facing Ramsar wetlands and classifying wetlands based on their exposure to different pressures including:
    • land use
    • hydrological alteration
    • invasive species
    • other pressures.
  • exploring the use of cumulative, distance-weighted methods to capture multiple pressures and their relatively influence with respect to the wetlands’ position within the larger catchment
  • synthesising current monitoring practices at Ramsar sites, including the indicators and methods used for monitoring, and identifying existing frameworks that can track the impacts of climate change and the effectiveness of any adaptation actions
  • identifying emerging methods and technologies for measuring different wetland monitoring indicators
  • developing a draft monitoring strategy for Ramsar wetlands that will identify candidate indicators for monitoring each wetland-pressure class.

The initial stage of the project will then inform 2 subsequent stages. Stage 2 will use a representative selection of Ramsar wetlands to trial indicators for different spatial and temporal pressures. Stage 3 will develop a monitoring framework for Ramsar wetlands that reflect adaptive-management principles and the use of specific indicators that are responsive to relevant pressures and management actions.

Ramsar project flow chart

Conceptual diagram showing the distinct stages of this project. Image: Resilient Landscapes Hub.

  • Cape Cleveland is a part of Bowling Green Bay National Park, one of Queensland's Ramsar sites. Photo: Danny/Adobe Stock.
  • Moulting Lagoon Ramsar site in Tasmania, Australia. Photo: RobDTheBaker/Adobe Stock.
  • Aerial view of Eagle Point Bay at the Gippsland Lakes Reserve Ramsar site, Victoria, Australia. Photo: Greg Brave/Adobe Stock.