Wetlands which are recognised as internationally important are registered on a list of the Convention on Wetlands (Ramsar, Iran 1971), commonly referred to as the Ramsar Convention.
For the purposes of this Convention the following definition of wetlands has been adopted:
"...wetlands are areas of marsh, fen, peatland or water, whether natural or artificial, permanent or temporary, with water that is static or flowing, fresh, brackish or salt, including areas of marine water the depth of which at low tide does not exceed six metres."
More information is available from the official Ramsar website:
Tasmanian Ramsar Sites
Australia has so far listed 65 sites on the Convention on Wetlands, 10 of which are in Tasmania:
- Moulting Lagoon,
- Logan Lagoon;
- Pittwater-Orielton Lagoon;
- Apsley Marshes;
- East Coast-Cape Barren Island Lagoons;
- Flood Plain Lower Ringarooma River;
- Jocks Lagoon;
- Little Waterhouse Lake.
Managing Ramsar sites
Under Article 3.1 of the Convention, contracting parties are expected to "formulate and implement their planning so as to promote the conservation of the wetlands included on the List, and as far as possible the wise use of wetlands in their territory." Wise use is defined as "their sustainable utilisation for the benefit of mankind in a way compatible with the maintenance of the natural properties of the ecosystems." Furthermore, Article 3.2 determines that "each Contracting Party shall arrange to be informed at the earliest possible time if the ecological character of any wetland in the territory and on the List has changed, is changing or is likely to change".
Contracting Parties are expected to manage their Ramsar sites so as to maintain the ecological character of each site and, in so doing, retain those essential ecological and hydrological functions which ultimately provide its products, functions and attributes. Under the Australian Constitution, day to day management of sites is delegated to the states and territories and therefore the obligations listed above also apply to Tasmania.
To ensure that the Australian Government fulfills its obligations, in 1999 it passed the
Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999
(EPBC). Under this Act, certain actions require approval from the Commonwealth Minister for the Environment. An action is a "project, development, undertaking, activity or series of activities."
An "action" needs approval if it " is taken anywhere in Australia and has, will have, or is likely to have a significant impact on a matter of National Environmental Significance (NES)". One of the six NES triggers is a Ramsar wetland of international importance (note that an action may occur outside the boundaries of the site).
An impact on the ecological character of a declared Ramsar wetland is significant if:
Photograph of Moulting Lagoon by Bruce Miller
- Areas of the wetland are destroyed or substantially modified; or
- There is a major and measurable change in the natural hydrological regime of the wetland (eg change to the timing, duration and frequency of ground and surface water flows to and within the wetland); or
- The habitat or lifecycle of native species dependant upon the wetland is seriously affected; or
- There is a major and measurable change in the physico-chemical status of the wetland (eg salinity, pollutants, nutrients, temperature, turbidity); or
- Invasive species are introduced into the wetland.