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Article << Previous     |     Next >>   Contents Vol 55(1)

Classifying landform at broad spatial scales: the distribution and conservation of wetlands in New South Wales, Australia

R. T. Kingsford, K. Brandis, R. F. Thomas, P. Crighton, E. Knowles and E. Gale

Marine and Freshwater Research 55(1) 17 - 31
Published: 20 February 2004


Relatively few large-scale inventories of the world's wetlands exist because of the difficulties of spatial scale, associated cost and multiple objectives, often temporally confounded, that drive classification. The extent of wetlands across a large part of Australia (New South Wales, 80.6 million ha) was determined using satellite image analyses. These data allowed analyses of the distribution of wetlands, their conservation status and potential threats at different spatial scales; that is, State, coastal and inland, and catchment. Approximately 5.6% of New South Wales is wetland (4.5 million ha), mostly (96%) in inland river catchments. Broad classification allowed identification of the extent of wetland types: (i) floodplains (89%); (ii) freshwater lakes (6.6%); (iii) saline lakes (< 1%); (iv) estuarine wetlands (2.5%); and (v) coastal lagoons and lakes (1.5%). Conservation reserves protect only 3% of wetland area. The analyses identified the north-west as the key area for wetland conservation as most other catchments have lower wetland extent and more potential threatening processes. The first stage of a large-scale inventory is to determine the extent and location of wetlands, with immediate benefits for strategic conservation and management. Other objectives (e.g. classification, biotic composition, hydrology and threats) seldom have sufficient data available for large-scale inventories but can be completed later with resources.

Keywords: catchments, classification, inventory, mapping, reserves, river regulation.

Full text doi:10.1071/MF03075

© CSIRO 2004

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