The Fauna Wetland Indicator Species List (WISL) has been compiled to support the determination of whether a site is a wetland. Wetland indicator species (WIS) have adapted to living in wetlands and are dependent on them for all or part of their lives. Some spend a major part of their life there, whereas others only use them for critical stages of their life cycle, such as breeding and larval development.
The presence of a WIS at a site does not, in itself, confirm the site to be a wetland, but is one line of evidence towards determining the wetland status of a site.
species are dependent on water and need to be immersed in water, or floating upon water, for their total life cycle.
require water for most of their life cycle stages or for a critical stage in their development.
The WISL includes mainly the more common fauna species. Most rare species and all vagrant fauna species have not been included. Species, other than those listed, may also be wetland indicator species for a certain locality given expert recommendation and reliable site specific data.
Most marine species are also not included in the WISL as the wetland definition excludes marine water more than 6m below low tide.
Knowledge of the species geographic distribution and behaviour will aid interpretation of some recorded observations. Expert advice may be required when WIS are recorded in an area without other identifiable wetland characteristics as the species may be:
travelling between wetlands (e.g. crayfish, eels, crocodiles and birds)
using adjacent non-wetland habitat for a period of their life cycle or lifestyle (e.g. Chelidae freshwater turtles laying eggs on dry ground)
forced into less preferred non-wetland habitat due to overpopulation pressures (e.g. swamp rat).
The species groupings below are divided into subgroupings which contain species with similar habitat needs and behaviours. The WIS lists have been grouped in 7 tables and are all at a species level except for insects and spiders.
There is little knowledge about Queensland’s freshwater crustaceans. Expertise should be sought when using Class Crustacea as a wetland indicator species as some species are considered amphibious during their life cycle and may appear outside the wetland environment.
This section includes only the macro freshwater crustacean species within Class Crustacea, Order Decapoda and Family either Palaemondae (freshwater crabs) or Parastacidae (freshwater crayfish).
All wild fish—Chondrichthyes (cartilaginous fish) and Osteichthyes (bony fish)—recognised as recorded within Queensland are considered to be WIS, depending on their typical habitat’s physical characteristics as compared to those described in the Queensland Wetland Program wetland definition.
The fish species in this list largely belong to the freshwater fish that are bed spawners (demersal) with the non-floating eggs sinking to the water column bed or adhering to submerged rocks or vegetation.
Other fish (diadromus) are dependent on estuarine and lower freshwater habitat early in their life cycles. The free floating young then move from the estuarine to the marine environment for their mature lives either breeding at sea or returning to estuarine or freshwater environments to breed.
Some species move downstream to breed in the brackish water or even seawater and then migrate upstream (catadromous). Examples of these are Australian perch and barramundi.
More extensive Queensland fish species lists are available from the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries). Queensland’s watercourses and estuaries are populated by freshwater and estuarine elasmobranchs (rays, bull sharks, sawfish). The taxonomy, distribution and status of these creatures are poorly known and because of this expert guidance is essential if considering these as wetland indicator species.
Frogs are amphibians, usually going through 3 distinct life cycle stages from eggs to aquatic larvae (tadpole) and air breathing adults. Expert opinion should be sought as these animals may live at least one stage of their life cycle outside wetland habitats. The frog species selected for these lists are the most hydrophilic frog species whose life cycle fits within the Queensland Wetlands Program wetland definition (animals that are adapted to and dependent on living in wet conditions for at least part of their life cycle).
Frogs living in permanent wetland conditions usually breed in the wetter summer months. Those in the arid inland areas with ephemeral wetlands are usually burrowing frogs that bury themselves in the moist underground, subdue body metabolism and enter a state of dormancy referred to as aestivation for months or years of drought. They can then activate themselves within 24 hours of a rain or flood event, rise to the surface and mate with the tadpole metamorphosing into a frog in about 14 to 20 days in most species. Breeding occurs as long as the wet event lasts. The moistest soil for burrowing and drought survival is beneath the wetlands. As such, the frog wetland indicator list is divided into 3 tables to differentiate between the frogs according to their relationship with wetlands.
Frog—entire aquatic life
These frog species are considered to live an entirely aquatic life. One species is noted as being in seepage areas. As most members of the family Microhylidae lay eggs on the land and are arboreal or terrestrial, they are not included as representative WIS.
Frog Wetland Indicator Species List - entire aquatic life (this list is indicative and may not be all inclusive of all WIS in this section) Download this table in .CSV format
These species do not spend all life stages (egg, tadpole or maturity) within the aquatic environment. These species can be indicators of wetland conditions, but require expert interpretation of their associations with wetlands.
Frog Wetland Indicator Species List - partial aquatic life (this list is indicative and may not be all inclusive of all WIS in this section) Download this table in .CSV format
For these species, the aquatic environment is essential for the early life stages (egg and tadpole), and the mature stage is not aquatic but burrowed except for breeding events. Therefore, these species are only an indicator for possible wetland conditions in the egg and tadpole stages, and during breeding events.
Frog Wetland Indicator Species List - early aquatic life (this list is indicative and may not be all inclusive of all WIS in this section) Download this table in .CSV format
The birds listed in the following tables are selected for their close relationship with wetlands. To assist with identification, the lists have been divided into categories of species that share similar behaviour and habitats.
The lists include indicator species that either:
breed in wetlands
feed almost entirely in wetlands
live in wetlands or abutting habitat.
These lists include species that are easy to identify but are not complete lists of wetland species. Uncommon and vagrant species are not included. It is important to note that some species in these lists may be recorded out of wetland habitats because they migrate or move during dry periods. This does not interfere with their status of wetland indicators but means that data used as wetland indication may require expert interpretation.
It is also important to recognise that while most wader birds breed in wetlands of the Northern Hemisphere, they remain faithful to wetland sites when in Australia.
^ Cogger, HG (1994), Reptiles and Amphibians of Australia; 5th edition, Reed Books, Sydney.
^ Geering, ADW, Agnew, L & Harding, S (2007), Shorebirds of Australia. [online], CSIRO Pub., Victoria, Australia. Available at: http://site.ebrary.com/id/10619894 [Accessed 13 November 2020].
Last updated: 22 March 2013
This page should be cited as:
Department of Environment and Science, Queensland (2013) Fauna Wetland Indicator Species List, WetlandInfo website, accessed 13 May 2021. Available at: https://wetlandinfo.des.qld.gov.au/wetlands/ecology/components/fauna/fauna-indicator-species-list.html