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Wetland systems (aquatic ecosystems)

Wetlands in Queensland have been classified into wetland systems (lacustrine, palustrine, riverine, estuarine, marine and subterranean) and discrete wetland habitat types on a state scale. 

Conceptual models are tools used to describe our current understanding of the ecology, components and processes that characterise these wetland types.

These models can be used to learn about different wetland habitat types, to inform management and underpin research and monitoring. 

Use the links on the picture below to find the wetland system you are interested in. More detailed wetland (aquatic ecosystem) habitat types can be found on the system pages.

Channel country Photo by Nick Cuff

Quick facts

may contain a number of different wetland systems, e.g. a lacustrine system may be surrounded by a palustrine fringe. Wetland systems may be composed of wetland habitat types, e.g. grass, herb sedge habitat, treed habitat and permanent lakes.
Mangrove, Photo by Cathy Ellis

Estuarine wetlands are those with oceanic water sometimes diluted with freshwater run-off from the land.

Cape Bedford Photo, Photo by Nick Cuff

Marine wetlands include the area of ocean from the coastline or estuary, extending to the jurisdictional limits of Queensland waters (3 nautical mile limit). This definition differs from that in Ramsar, as it includes waters deeper than 6m below the lowest astronomical tide.

Chinchilla Weir, Photo by Cathy Ellis

Lacustrine wetlands are large, open, water-dominated systems (for example, lakes) larger than 8ha. This definition also applies to modified systems (for example, dams), which are similar to lacustrine systems (for example, deep, standing or slow-moving waters).

100 Mile Swamp, Photo by Cathy Ellis

Palustrine wetlands are primarily vegetated non-channel environments of less than 8 hectares. They include billabongs, swamps, bogs, springs, soaks etc, and have more than 30% emergent vegetation.

Einasleigh River, Photo by Cathy Ellis

Riverine wetlands are all wetlands and deepwater habitats within a channel. The channels are naturally or artificially created, periodically or continuously contain moving water, or connecting two bodies of standing water.

Photo by Moya Tomlinson

Subterranean wetlands are wetlands occurring below the surface of the ground and that are fed by groundwater i.e. caves and aquifers. These wetlands provide water to groundwater dependent ecosystems.

Pictorial conceptual models

Pictorial conceptual models of lacustrine, palustrine, riverine, estuarine, marine and groundwater dependent wetlands showing natural processes and components are concise and visually stimulating illustrations that use symbols or drawings to depict important features and processes of wetland environments. These models use the most current knowledge or understanding of an environment, presented in a way that is easy to understand.

In addition to the types of wetlands outlined above, wetlands also form different patterns on, or interact with, the landscape in different ways.

Endorheic wetlands: are closed systems that allow no outflow to other, external bodies of water such as oceans and rivers and are internally draining. The water instead drains into permanent and seasonal lakes that equilibrate through evaporation. Endorheic basins also are called closed basins, terminal wetlands, and internal drainage systems[3].

Wetland mosaics: form small regular or irregular patterns where multiple small wetlands exist in close proximity with each other. Wetlands in a mosaic can be longitudinally (river connectivity) and laterally (within floodplain) connected. They are connected spatially but also temporally, depending on flow regimes[2].

Wetland aggregations: Wetlands in an aggregation may be connected hydrologically, ecologically or biologically. Hydrological connections include surface water flows and groundwater flows. These connections may be permanent, e.g. a stream or groundwater flows, or intermittent such as periodic flooding[1].

Pages under this section


  1. ^ Australian Government. Directory of Important Wetlands in Australia. [online] Available at:
  2. ^ Reis, V, Hermoso, V, Hamilton, SK, Bunn, SE & Linke, S (August 2019), 'Conservation planning for river-wetland mosaics: A flexible spatial approach to integrate floodplain and upstream catchment connectivity', Biological Conservation. [online], vol. 236, pp. 356-365. Available at: [Accessed 14 August 2023].
  3. ^ William David Williams & Kenneth H. Mann (2022), 'Inland water ecosystem', Encyclopedia Britannica. [online] Available at:

Last updated: 22 March 2013

This page should be cited as:

Department of Environment, Science and Innovation, Queensland (2013) Wetland systems (aquatic ecosystems), WetlandInfo website, accessed 18 March 2024. Available at:

Queensland Government
WetlandInfo   —   Department of Environment, Science and Innovation