Australia’s Wet Tropics Streams, Rivers, and Floodplain Wetlands
The Australian Wet Tropics biogeographic region is known for its ancient World Heritage rainforests and its proximity to the Great Barrier Reef. It includes ancient mountains and floodplains, and diverse wetlands that support high biodiversity and have important socio-economic and ecological values. Aboriginal people have maintained strong cultural ties to wetlands over 50,000 years. Wetlands include streams, rivers, estuaries, crater lakes, floodplain lagoons and swamps, variously lined by rainforest, paperbark and mangroves. The wetland invertebrate and fish fauna is the most diverse in Australia and includes many endemics such as mountain mayflies and crayfish, and several fish species. Wetlands attract a rich amphibian, reptile and bird fauna, and the platypus is common in the uplands. Wetlands are of value in providing water for agriculture and other industries as well as supporting commercial and recreational fisheries and rich biodiversity and other ecosystem services. Wetlands are adversely affected by extensive use of the region, especially for agriculture, water harvesting and other human activity. Many streams and some coastal wetlands are in protected areas, but protection of floodplain rivers and associated wetlands is limited, and they remain threatened by human activity, especially agriculture and invasive species, and in the long term, by climate change and sea-level rise. Management of these issues is progressing because of the downstream impacts on the Great Barrier Reef, rather than for the inherent values of the wetlands.
KeywordsTropical wetlands Biodiversity Conservation Management Ecosystem services Queensland Rainforest
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