Wetlands: Protecting the World’s ‘Ugly’ Places

  • Josephine GillespieEmail author


This chapter will examine the implications of another type of protected area regime; Ramsar Convention listed wetlands. The Ramsar governance regime is described and evaluated in this chapter using case study sites from the Australasian region. Through this analysis I argue for a greater reconciliation between the activities of the human communities subject to regulation with biodiversity and wetland conservation targets. Mechanisms by which global legal commitments to wetlands protection need to be reconciled with national and sub-national operational rules and such a reconciliation is now urgently required. Increasingly, an integrative approach to the conservation of biological and cultural diversity prevails. Integration requires that we understand the human dimensions of institutional and governance arrangements surrounding these crucial protected areas. In this chapter we consider case studies from Southeast Asia, the Tonle Sap (Great Lake) of Cambodia, from within Oceania (and we note this region’s under-representation) and the lower Murray Darling Lakes, the Coorong and Lake Alexandrina and Albert Wetland Ramsar Site in Australia.


Ramsar Convention Wetlands Tonle Sap Prek Toal Cambodia Coorong and Lake Alexandrina and Albert Australia Qoliqoli Cokovata Reef Fiji Upper Navua Conservation Area Fiji 


  1. Alexandra J (2017) Risks, uncertainty and climate confusion in the Murray–Darling Basin reforms. Water Economics and Policy 3(03): 1650038.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Arias ME, Cochrane TA, Norton D, Killeen TJ and Khon P (2013) The flood pulse as the underlying driver of vegetation in the largest wetland and fishery of the Mekong Basin. Ambio: A Journal of the Human Environment 42(7): 864–876.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bartlett KB and Harriss RC (1993) Review and assessment of methane emissions from wetlands. Chemosphere 26(1–4): 261–320.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bunyan J (1678) The Pilgrim’s Progress. Reprint, Classics of World Literature, London 1996, 272 pages.Google Scholar
  5. Cann JH and Murray-Wallace CV (2012) Interstadial age (MIS5c) beach-dune barrier deposits in the Coorong Lagoon, South Australia. Australian Journal of Earth Sciences 59(8): 1127–1134.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Chan EKF, Timmermann A, Baldi BF, Moore AE, Lyons SSL, Kalsbeek AMF, Petersen DC, Rautenbach H, Fortsch HEA, Bornman MSR and Hayes VM (2019) Human origins in southern African palaeo-wetland and first migrations. Nature 575: 185–189.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Davidson NC (2014) How much wetland has the world lost? Long-term and recent trends in global wetland area. Marine and Freshwater Research 65(10): 934–941.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Davies J (2019) Ramsar-protected Macquarie Marshes wetland on fire with 90pc of crucial reed bed razed. Australian Broadcasting Commission, 28 October. Available Accessed 24 November 2019.
  9. Della Bosca H and Gillespie J (2019) Bringing the swamp in from the periphery: Australian wetlands as sites of climate resilience and political agency. Journal of Environmental Planning and Management. Scholar
  10. Dixon MJR, Loh J, Davidson NC, Beltrame C, Freeman R and Walpole M (2016) Tracking global change in ecosystem area: The Wetland Extent Trends index. Biological Conservation 193: 27–35.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Ellison JC (2009) Wetlands of the Pacific Island region. Wetlands Ecology and Management 17: 169–206.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Ewel KC (2008) Mangrove crab (Scylla serrata) populations may sometimes be best managed locally. Journal of Sea Research 59(1–2): 114–120.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Finlayson MC (2012) Forty years of wetland conservation and wise use. Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems 22(2): 139–143.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Giblett RJ (1996) Postmodern Wetlands: Culture, History, Ecology. Edinburgh University Press, Edinburgh, 268 pages.Google Scholar
  15. Gillespie J (2018) Wetland conservation and legal layering: Managing Cambodia’s great lake. The Geographical Journal 184(1): 31–40.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Gillespie J and Perry N (2019) Feminist political ecology and legal geography: A case study of the Tonle Sap protected wetlands of Cambodia. Environment and Planning A: Economy and Space 51(5): 1089–1105.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Grafton RQ, Pittock J, Williams J, Jiang Q, Possingham H and Quiggin J (2014) Water planning and hydro-climatic change in the Murray-Darling Basin, Australia. Ambio: A Journal of the Human Environment 43(8): 1082–1092.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Hamman E, Van Geelen T and Akhtar-Khavari A (2019) Governance tools for the conservation of wetlands: The role of the Montreux Record under the Ramsar Convention 2019s. Marine and Freshwater Research 70(11): 1493–1502.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Hart BT (2016) The Australian Murray–Darling basin plan: Challenges in its implementation (part 1). International Journal of Water Resources Development 32(6): 819–834.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Hu S, Niu Z, Chen Y, Li L and Zhang H (2017) Global wetlands: Potential distribution, wetland loss, and status. Science of the Total Environment 586: 319–327.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Kasdan L and Brackett L (1978) Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back Script at IMSDb [online]. Available Accessed 1 November 2019.
  22. Kingsford RT (2011) Conservation management of rivers and wetlands under climate change—A synthesis. Marine and Freshwater Research 62(3): 217–222.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Kingsford RT and Johnson W (1998) Impact of water diversions on colonially-nesting waterbirds in the Macquarie Marshes of arid Australia. Colonial Waterbirds 21: 159–170.Google Scholar
  24. Kingsford RT, Fairweather PG, Geddes MC, Lester RE, Sammut J and Walker KF (2009) Engineering a crisis in a Ramsar wetland: The Coorong, Lower Lakes and Murray Mouth, Australia. Australian Wetlands and Rivers Centre, University of New South Wales, Sydney, 56 pages.Google Scholar
  25. Kingsford RT, Walker KF, Lester RE, Young WJ, Fairweather PG, Sammut J and Geddes MC (2011) A Ramsar wetland in crisis—The Coorong, Lower Lakes and Murray Mouth, Australia. Marine and Freshwater Research 62(3): 255–265.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Kummu M and Sarkkula J (2008) Impact of the Mekong River flow alteration on the Tonle Sap flood pulse. Ambio: A Journal of the Human Environment 37(3): 185–193.Google Scholar
  27. Kummu M, Penny D, Sarkkula J and Koponen J (2008) Sediment: Curse or blessing for Tonle Sap Lake? Ambio: A Journal of the Human Environment 37(3): 158–163.Google Scholar
  28. Lamberts D (2006) The Tonle Sap Lake as a productive ecosystem. International Journal of Water Resources Development 22(3): 481–495.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Lane MB and Corbett T (2005) The tyranny of localism: Indigenous participation in community-based environmental management. Journal of Environmental Policy and Planning 7(2): 141–159.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Leblanc M, Tweed S, Van Dijk A and Timbal B (2012) A review of historic and future hydrological changes in the Murray-Darling Basin. Global and Planetary Change 80: 226–246.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Leopold A (1949) A Sand County Almanac and Sketches Here and There. Oxford University Press, London and New York.Google Scholar
  32. Li X, Liu JP, Saito Y and Nguyen VL (2017) Recent evolution of the Mekong Delta and the impacts of dams. Earth-Science Reviews 175: 1–17.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Matthews GVT (2013) The Ramsar Convention on Wetlands: Its History and Development. Ramsar Convention Bureau, Gland, Switzerland, 88 pages.Google Scholar
  34. Nicholas GP (1998) Wetlands and hunter-gatherers: A global perspective. Current Anthropology 39(5): 720–731.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Nunn PD, Kumar L, Eliot I and McLean RF (2016) Classifying Pacific islands. Geoscience Letters 3(1): 7.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. O’Connor J, Rogers D and Pisanu P (2012) Monitoring the Ramsar Status of the Coorong, Lakes and Murray Mouth: A Case Study Using Birds. South Australian Department for Environment and Natural Resources, Adelaide, 38 pages.Google Scholar
  37. Paton DC, Rogers DJ, Hill BM, Bailey CP and Ziembicki M (2009) Temporal changes to spatially stratified waterbird communities of the Coorong, South Australia: Implications for the management of heterogenous wetlands. Animal Conservation 12(5): 408–417.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Perry N and Gillespie J (2019) Restricting spatial lives? The gendered implications of conservation in Cambodia’s protected wetlands. Environment and Planning E: Nature and Space 2(1): 73–88.Google Scholar
  39. Pittock J and Finlayson CM (2011) Australia’s Murray–Darling Basin: Freshwater ecosystem conservation options in an era of climate change. Marine and Freshwater Research 62(3): 232–243.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Ramsar Convention on Wetlands (2018) Global Wetland Outlook: State of the World’s Wetlands and Their Services to People. Ramsar Convention Secretariat, Gland, Switzerland, 86 pages.Google Scholar
  41. Ramsar Country Profiles (n.d.) Ramsar Secretariat. Available Accessed 20 October 2019.
  42. Ramsar Site Information Service Site 321 (n.d.) The Coorong and Lakes Alexandrina and Albert Ramsar Wetlands. Australia. Available Accessed 26 October 2019.
  43. Ramsar Site Information Service Site 337 (n.d.) Macquarie Marshes. Australia. Available Accessed 30 October 2019.
  44. Ramsar Site Information Service Site 1232 (n.d.) Lake Ngardok Nature Reserve. Palau. Available Accessed 24 October 2019.
  45. Ramsar Site Information Service Site 1612 (n.d.) Upper Navau Conservation Area. Fiji. Available Accessed 23 October 2019.
  46. Ramsar Site Information Service Site 2072 (n.d.) Namdrik Atoll. Marshall Islands. Available Accessed 24 October 2019.
  47. Ramsar Site Information Service Site 2331 (n.d.) Qoliqoli Cokovata Reef. Fiji. Available Accessed 23 October 2019.
  48. Richardson BJ (2018) Aesthetics and environmental law: Valuing Tasmania’s ‘ordinary’ nature. Griffith Law Review 27(1): 1–30.Google Scholar
  49. Ruddiman WF (2003) The anthropogenic greenhouse era began thousands of years ago. Climatic Change 61(3): 261–293.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Sarkkula J, Baran E, Chheng P, Keskinen M, Koponen J and Kummu M (2005) Tonle Sap Lake pulsing system and fisheries productivity. Internationale Vereinigung für theoretische und angewandte Limnologie: Verhandlungen 29 (2): 1099–1102.Google Scholar
  51. SPREP (2011) Regional Wetlands Action Plan for the Pacific Islands. Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme, Apia, 20 pages.Google Scholar
  52. Webster IT (2010) The hydrodynamics and salinity regime of a coastal lagoon—The Coorong, Australia–Seasonal to multi-decadal timescales. Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science 90(4): 264–274.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Wilson A (2018) Swamp: Nature and Culture. Reaktion Books Limited, London.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of GeosciencesUniversity of SydneySydneyAustralia

Personalised recommendations