, Volume 75, Issue 1, pp 73-93
Date: 10 Sep 2011

The status of wetlands and the predicted effects of global climate change: the situation in Australia

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Abstract

The condition of many wetlands across Australia has deteriorated due to increased water regulation and the expansion and intensification of agriculture and increased urban and industrial expansion. Despite this situation, a comprehensive overview of the distribution and condition of wetlands across Australia is not available. Regional analyses exist and several exemplary mapping and monitoring exercises have been maintained to complement the more general information sets. It is expected that global climate change will exacerbate the pressures on inland wetlands, while sea level rises will adversely affect coastal wetlands. It is also expected that the exacerbation of these pressures will increase the potential for near-irreversible changes in the ecological state of some wetlands. Concerted institutional responses to such pressures have in the past proven difficult to sustain, although there is some evidence that a more balanced approach to water use and agriculture is being developed with the provision of increasing funds to purchase water for environmental flows being one example. We identify examples from around Australia that illustrate the impacts on wetlands of long-term climate change from palaeoecological records (south-eastern Australia); water allocation (Murray-Darling Basin); dryland salinisation (south-western Australia); and coastal salinisation (northern Australia). These are provided to illustrate both the extent of change in wetlands and the complexity of differentiating the specific effects of climate change. An appraisal of the main policy responses by government to climate change is provided as a basis for further considering the opportunities for mitigation and adaptation to climate change.

This article belongs to the Special Issue “Effects of Climate Change on Wetlands”.