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Aquatic ecosystems rehabilitation background

The management and rehabilitation of aquatic ecosystems (wetlands) is undertaken for a wide range of reasons including improving ecosystem functionality, and to restore values and ecosystem services.

Broken river Photo by Gary Cranitch © Queensland Museum

Quick facts

All species
and ecosystems possess a variable level of resilience, a capacity to recover naturally from external stresses or shocks. This means that where human-induced impacts are low, recovery may be able to occur without assistance, but in sites of somewhat higher impact, at least some intervention is likely to be needed to initiate recovery[1].

Rehabilitation is an action, or actions to repair, enhance and/or replace ecosystem processes and/or components, to improve intrinsic values and/or ecosystem services.

Restoration is an action, or actions to bring back a former, original, normal, or unimpaired condition[1].

In the Queensland Aquatic Ecosystem Rehabilitation Process, restoration is a subset of the broader rehabilitation process, as the intent of rehabilitation may not be returning a system to its prior condition.

Rehabilitation is used worldwide to improve aquatic ecosystems, and is recognised internationally. See the United Nations Decade on Ecosystem Restoration (2021-2030).

Rehabilitation initiatives can be undertaken by almost anyone, from governments to businesses, communities to individuals. The causes of degradation are many and varied–and can have an impact at different scales and affect different people in different ways.

How rehabilitation starts

Aquatic ecosystems provide many important services and rehabilitation ensures that the services aquatic ecosystems provide to people are improved and functional now and into the future.

Aquatic ecosystem rehabilitation can be triggered by an event or begin through an initiative to address a responsibility or a need. Natural triggers can include disasters such as cyclones, floods and fire. Societal triggers and initiatives can include the need to protect at-risk infrastructure, market mechanisms, and drivers such as government policy, legislation or planning requirements (e.g. environmental offsets, water quality improvement and biodiversity protection).

There are many aquatic ecosystem rehabilitation projects in Queensland, occuring at differing scales and undertaken for different objectives.


  1. ^ a b Standards Reference Group, SERA (September 2021), National standards for the practice of ecological restoration in Australia. [online] Available at:

Last updated: 30 June 2022

This page should be cited as:

Department of Environment, Science and Innovation, Queensland (2022) Aquatic ecosystems rehabilitation background, WetlandInfo website, accessed 18 March 2024. Available at:

Queensland Government
WetlandInfo   —   Department of Environment, Science and Innovation