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

Colin Finlayson, J.A. Davis, P. A. Gell, R. T. Kingsford, Kevin Parton

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The condition of many wetlands across Australiahas deteriorated due to increased water regulation andthe expansion and intensification of agriculture andincreased urban and industrial expansion. Despite this situation,a comprehensive overview of the distribution andcondition of wetlands across Australia is not available.Regional analyses exist and several exemplary mappingand monitoring exercises have been maintained to complementthe more general information sets. It is expectedthat global climate change will exacerbate the pressures oninland wetlands, while sea level rises will adversely affectcoastal wetlands. It is also expected that the exacerbation of these pressures will increase the potential for near-irreversiblechanges in the ecological state of some wetlands.Concerted institutional responses to such pressures have inthe past proven difficult to sustain, although there is someevidence that a more balanced approach to water use andagriculture is being developed with the provision ofincreasing funds to purchase water for environmental flowsbeing one example. We identify examples from aroundAustralia that illustrate the impacts on wetlands of longtermclimate change from palaeoecological records (south-eastern Australia); water allocation (Murray-DarlingBasin); dryland salinisation (south-western Australia); andcoastal salinisation (northern Australia). These are providedto illustrate both the extent of change in wetlands andthe complexity of differentiating the specific effects ofclimate change. An appraisal of the main policy responsesby government to climate change is provided as a basis forfurther considering the opportunities for mitigation andadaptation to climate change.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)73-93
Number of pages21
JournalAquatic Sciences
Issue number1
Early online date2011
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2013


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