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Wetland values

What someone values in a wetland will be influenced by their own perspective or interest. When considering wetland values, it is important to identify who benefits from what values.

The importance of a wetland depends on the type, its values and the criteria on which it is assessed. Quite often the terms ‘values’, ‘ecosystem services’ and ‘benefits’ are used interchangeably, see the Assessing wetland values and services page for further information.

Wetlands have a range of values Photo by Queensland Government

Quick facts

of US dollars worth of free services are provided by wetlands worldwide every year, making a vital contribution to human health and well-being. With the global population set to increase to nine billion by 2050, increasing pressure on water resources and the threats posed by climate change, the need to maximise these benefits has never been greater.[1]

Wetlands provide many services which are valued by humans but not all wetlands provide the same values or services, e.g. one wetland may be primarily valued for its natural features while other wetlands might be considered more important for their productivity or tourism values. There are a range of factors that influence what values and services a wetland provides including its location, size, type, and condition. Most wetlands have multiple values and managing wetlands effectively involves balancing these values to achieve the best outcomes economically, socially, and environmentally.

Saltmarsh and mangroves near Cairns, Photo by Cathy Ellis

In general, wetlands are highly productive and valuable aquatic ecosystems because they:

  • provide a buffer against coastal erosion, storm surges and flooding which helps build resilience to flood and cyclone events
  • help maintain or improve water quality by transforming and retaining nutrients and sediment from run-off which would otherwise go into creeks and rivers that flow to the ocean. This in turn benefits humans by providing clean water.
  • are a source of blue carbon*, playing a vital role in the carbon cycle by sequestering and storing carbon dioxide thereby reducing climate variability
  • provide an important nursery for varieties of fish and crustaceans, including many that form the basis of economically important fisheries
  • provide habitat vital for the survival of a range of plants and animals
  • are hotspots of productivity and biodiversity
  • provide many opportunities for recreation and tourism and support research and educational activities
  • deliver a range of products such as medicine, food, and water vital for people, livestock, agriculture, and industry
  • provide important cultural, spiritual, or aesthetic services and improve human well-being.


*Blue carbon is the term used to describe the carbon stored in three coastal ecosystems: mangroves, tidal marshes, and seagrasses. Protecting and restoring blue carbon ecosystems offers opportunities for carbon sequestration and avoidance of greenhouse gas emissions. If these ecosystems are degraded or damaged, their carbon sequestration capacity may be lost or adversely affected, resulting in the release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere contributing to greenhouse emissions.

Wetland on-line education modules

A series of on-line education modules, including Why are wetlands important?, has been prepared as a resource for people who want to learn more about wetlands.

Users can download and use the contents of this education module to meet their learning and training needs. This information should be used in conjunction with information found on this website.

Additional information

Atlas of Ocean Wealth

Natural Capital Roadmap - Climate Works Australia:

Towards an Emissions Reduction Fund Method for Blue Carbon

Technical review of opportunities for including blue carbon in the Australian Government’s Emissions Reduction Fund

Blue Carbon in the Great Barrier Reef Catchments

Pages under this section


  1. ^ Ramsar. Wetland Ecosystem Services – an introduction. [online] Available at: [Accessed 19 November 2012].

Last updated: 18 September 2020

This page should be cited as:

Department of Environment and Science, Queensland (2020) Wetland values, WetlandInfo website, accessed 13 May 2021. Available at:

Queensland Government
WetlandInfo   —   Department of Environment and Science