Wetland or Wasteland?
Tasmanian wetlands are productive and diverse, but mismanagement can threaten their survival.
Wetlands have long been regarded by many as swampy "wastelands" and breeding grounds for disease vectors such as mosquitoes. Consequently, many wetlands have been severely degraded, mainly through drainage, inundation, vegetation clearance and ploughing for agriculture, by the grazing of stock around them, and on them during drier times, and their use as a dumping ground for rubbish and effluent. Many of these actions occurred in the absence of a clear understanding of the values of wetlands.
Attitudes are changing, but much more needs to be done to promote the values of wetlands, and ways in which human activities can be undertaken to benefit both wetlands and people.
Wetlands: Value and Diversity
Wetlands are one of Tasmania's most diverse and productive environments, ranging from coastal and marine wetlands, such as lagoons and mudflats, to riverine wetlands, marshes, lakes and alpine tarns.
Wetlands are essential in supporting human populations, yet globally, and here in Tasmania, they face many threats.
There are many benefits derived from wetlands. Wetlands:
- purify water and provide protection from floods by absorbing and slowly releasing water
- are breeding grounds for many fish which support commercial and recreational fisheries
- are habitat for many species, some that are rare and threatened
- are rich in cultural heritage, both Aboriginal and European
- are a source of water for stock and support wildlife which can control pests on farms
- are economically valuable because of the services they provide
- provide recreational places and are a source of inspiration for many people.
Wetlands: A Resource throughout History
Most wetlands are surrounded by human settlements. Wetlands have been an important resource throughout human history, providing food such as birds, eggs, fish, plants and water. The Tasmanian Aborigines exploited this resource. Because wetlands are productive and a source of water, land near them was also attractive to European settlers.
There are many threats to wetlands including:
Wetland photograph by Janet A. Smith.
- drainage and other alterations to natural water regimes
- pollution from activities in catchments
- inappropriate urban developments
- forest practices
- agriculture and mining
- physical damage from recreational activities such as vehicle use
- the introduction of plant and animal pest species
- trampling by livestock.