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Components, processes and drivers

To manage an ecosystem, it is important to understand what it is made of and how its various parts work and interact. 

Appreciating how the various parts or components work and interact (the processes) helps us identify, plan for and manage all those aspects of a wetland that enables it to deliver the many services that we depend on and value.

Wetland components refer to the parts that comprise an ecosystem and include things such as plants, animals, soil and water. While the processes relate to the interactions between the components. The drivers are the reason these interactions occur.

Channel mosaic Cooper Creek, Photo by Roger Jaensch

Quick facts

drivers and components can have different impacts depending on the landscape and where the wetland is located.
Some wetland related natural and anthropogenic drivers can be found in this section or under Pressures.

Components are the physical, chemical and biological parts that make up the environment (e.g. topography, the various animals that live there, the geology, the climate, rainfall)[3][4][1]

A process relates to interactions between different components (e.g. water eroding soil and depositing it somewhere else). Sometimes interactions between different processes can also occur (e.g. two different chemical processes interacting with each other).

Environmental processes might take place within a wetland but they may also happen across a whole catchment or the broader landscape. When managing a wetland it is important that the surrounding landscape is considered as this can have a major effect on the wetland and the values and services it provides.


In very basic terms a driver is something that causes a process to start. Drivers can be a component or process that causes a change in an organism, community, ecosystem, or other component or process (e.g. the universe, catchment, landscape, wetland to an organism). So a driver (e.g. fire, rain or development) causes a process (e.g. fluvial or chemical) to impact on a component (e.g. soil, geology, water, air).

The list of drivers can vary depending on the scale or the topic being addressed. Many assessments focus on human related drivers to determine potential pressures on values and services, such as the State of the Environment Reporting (Drivers-Pressures-State-Impacts-Response framework). Drivers may include

  • biological, physical or chemical e.g. an invasive plant species that changes the biological diversity of a forest or a fire or grazing that causes a decrease in the biological diversity of a forest[2]
  • indirect drivers such as economics or population growth, or direct drivers such as climatic events or pollution events
  • natural or human influences or a combination of both.


  1. ^ The Ramsar Convention on Wetlands (Ramsar), (2005). 9th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Wetlands (Ramsar, Iran, 1971) – Wetlands and water: supporting life, sustaining livelihoods. Resolution IX.1 Annex A. - A Conceptual Framework for the wise use of wetlands and the maintenance of their ecological character. [online] Available at: [Accessed 14 September 2012].
  2. ^ United States Environmental Protection Agency, (11 December 2011). Glossary & Important Terms. [online] Available at: [Accessed 12 December 2012].
  3. ^ Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (2005), Ecosystems and Human Well-being: Synthesis. [online], Island Press, Washington, DC.. Available at:
  4. ^ National Framework and Guidance for Describing the Ecological Character of Australia’s Ramsar Wetlands. Aquatic Ecosystems Toolkit Module 2: Interim Australian National Aquatic Ecosystem (ANAE) Classification Framework (2008). [online], Australian Government, Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts (DEWHA), Canberra, ACT. Available at:

Last updated: 22 March 2013

This page should be cited as:

Department of Environment and Science, Queensland (2013) Components, processes and drivers, WetlandInfo website, accessed 13 April 2023. Available at:

Queensland Government
WetlandInfo   —   Department of Environment and Science