Wetlands are important for ecological, social and economic reasons, including for fishing, canoeing or bird watching or commercial values in grazing, river red gum harvesting and lake bed cropping. The Australian Aboriginal people have long associations with wetlands.
Currently, wetlands support non-native fauna such as grazing cattle and sheep, and pest species such as pigs, goats, cats, deer, rabbits, foxes and European carp. When not managed properly non-native species cause loss of biodiversity and reduce water quality.
In contrast, healthy wetlands buffer nutrient and sediment inputs into oceans and rivers, mitigate floods, recharge groundwater and reduce erosion. Wetlands cycle between wetting and drying, stimulating growth and reproduction of plants and animals.
When wet, wetlands serve as wildlife drought refuges. The drying phase allows plant decomposition, nutrient release and seed set. Re-flooding triggers prolific growth for plants, insects, fish, waterbirds and other animals, including internationally significant migratory birds. Without flooding seedbanks and egg banks can die. Wetlands wet too long, can develop acid sulphate soils and increase the risk of heavy metal exposure.
Knowledge gathered from NSW Government monitoring of wetlands, including under the Integrated Monitoring and Environmental Flow Program (IMEF), will be used to assess water sharing plans to improve management of water resources for environmental and water user needs. This includes responding to climate change effects observed in wetlands of International, National and State significance such the Macquarie Marshes, Gwydir and Gingham wetlands, Murrumbidgee wetlands, the Great Cumbung Swamp and the Booligal Wetlands.