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What is a wetland?

Dams, ponds, lakes, billabongs, swamps…

The term “wetland” refers to all of the above and more! Wetlands don’t have to be wet all the time to be considered wetlands. Wetlands don’t have to have standing water either – saturated ground also makes a wetland. Wetlands also don’t have to be fresh water – marine lagoons and inland saline wetlands can also count.

Some wetlands have trees growing in and around them and some wetlands may have no vegetation at all, or short, slow-growing vegetation. Man-made and natural waterbodies are both considered wetlands. Rivers and creeks are not normally considered wetlands in Victoria, but very slow-flowing waterways can sometimes count.

The Ramsar Convention on Wetlands is an international treaty on wetlands and it uses a broader definition that includes rivers. The Convention on Wetlands provides an international framework for the conservation and management of wetlands.

Gippsland Lakes Coastal Wetland RAMSAR listed significant site.

Photo: RAMSAR Official site for Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Wetlands are not just beautiful, providing support for biodiversity, they act as sediment traps and filter nutrients and pollutants, protecting the water that people drink. Around the world, wetlands support economies through tourism, food and recreation.

In Victoria, wetlands are an important part of Aboriginal cultural heritage and have provided food and livelihoods for people for thousands of years.

Even artificial ponds count as wetlands and have cultural and ecological value.

Photo: Pond Viewing Chair by Michael Coghlan

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