Under the Queensland Wetlands Program (QWP) the purpose of the Queensland State-wide Wetland Assessment and Monitoring Project (QSWAMP) is to provide a conceptual and operational framework for assessing and monitoring the state, hazard, biophysical processes and environmental values associated with lacustrine (lake) and palustrine (swamp) wetlands. The initial phase of this project provides a contemporary landscape scale assessment of hazard arising from human induced pressures to wetlands in the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) catchment. In particular the assessment aims to characterise specific pressures arising from different land-uses.
22 potential pressures on wetlands were identified within five categories:
· Inputs (including nutrients, sediments, pesticides etc.)
· Harvesting or exploitation
· Water regime change
· Biological introduction and perpetuation
· Habitat disturbance or alteration
Using a process of expert elicitation, each individual pressure was qualitatively associated to 15 broad land-use groupings and 16 facilities/infrastructure land use types. This allowed a ‘pressure profile’ to be produced for each land-use. Weightings (based on these profiles) were then used to map modelled levels of landscape-scale hazard based on state-held land use mapping and infrastructure data sets.
The land-use/pressure characterisation process indicated that the most important individual pressures acting on wetlands are changes to natural surface water flow patterns, inputs of nutrients, inputs of sediments and direct surface water abstraction/addition. The land-uses most strongly associated with pressures on wetlands were urban, irrigated cropping and horticulture, extensive grazing, intensively managed grazing and mining. Landscape scale hazard arising from land uses was mapped for all of the more than 14,000 individual wetlands in the GBR catchment.
This important step in the operationalization of QSWAMP defines the conceptual understanding of pressures acting on wetland ecosystems and provides a landscape scale quantification of hazard from human induced land-use practices.