Aubin Grove, conservation category
sumpland - Photo © M Rogers/Parks and Wildlife

Western Australia is home to many different varieties of wetlands, from tidal mangroves and billabongs, to salt lakes and fresh water springs.

No one government agency is solely responsible for managing wetlands in Western Australia. The Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions (DBCA) is responsible for reporting on Ramsar wetlands and management of wetlands on CALM Act land. DBCA provides advice to decision makers and is involved in wetlands research and monitoring.

What are wetlands?

Wetlands are areas that are permanently, seasonally or intermittently waterlogged or inundated with water.

  • This water can be fresh or salty, flowing or still.
  • Wetlands occur naturally however. some may be artificially created.

Lakes are an easily identified type of wetland. These permanently inundated basins are well documented world-wide and notable in our dry landscapes.

Less familiar wetland types include sumplands, damplands, playas, palusplains, barlkarras, paluslopes and palusmonts.

Wetland types (adapted from Semeniuk & Semeniuk)







Permanently inundated






Seasonally inundated






Intermittent inundation






Seasonally waterlogged






Waterlogged wetlands are being lost at a faster rate than other wetland types because since European settlement they have tended to be less valued than other wetlands. They have also posed less of a constraint to development or use because they hold less water.

Wetland mapping

Wetlands have been mapped in some areas of Western Australia. Detailed mapping has been undertaken on the Swan Coastal Plain where wetlands have been evaluated and assigned a management category. 

Why are wetlands important?

Although Australia is the driest inhabited continent, it has a large number of the world’s internationally recognised wetlands.

  • Australian wetlands are critical to the survival of birds that migrate across the globe each season, and Australia is responsible for these birds under international treaties.
    • Nearly 20 per cent of Australia’s bird species depend on wetlands, many on different wetlands for different parts of their life cycle.
  • Wetlands provide a home for other animals such as fish, frogs, tortoises and invertebrates, and many types of plants.
    • They provide vital habitat for threatened plants and animals, such as the western swamp tortoise (Pseudemydura umbrina) found naturally in only two wetlands in the state's south west.
    • They provide nursery areas for fish, and breeding grounds for wildlife, particularly waterbirds.
  • Wetlands help keep water clean and healthy by filtering out pollutants such as sediments, nutrients and pathogens.
  • Wetlands help reduce the severity of floods, while providing refuges for wildlife during drought.
  • Many are great spots for recreational activities such as camping, swimming, boating, fishing, bushwalking and birdwatching.
  • Many wetlands are culturally significant, for example gnammas.
  • They provide educational and scientific research sites for the community and academic institutions.
  • A seasonally waterlogged wetland
    A seasonally waterlogged wetland - 
    Photo © Parks and Wildlife
  • Tortoise at Lake McLarty
    Tortoise at Lake McLarty
    Photo © A Beard


Articles in this category:

Title Modified Date
Wetlands mapping Friday, 16 February 2018 09:41
Wetlands monitoring and research Tuesday, 23 January 2018 17:27