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Queensland Environmental Protection Agency

Latest documentation


Designed for use in

Queensland, Australia



Assessment purpose

Policy, Prioritisation, Processes and components, Values/Services

Assessment criteria

Significance, Physical and chemical, Ecosystem/habitat, Flora, Fauna

Method type

Desktop, field truthing, expert panel


Long term – An assessment for a geographical area would take 6-12 months.


Landscape/Catchment, Region

Wetland system

Estuarine, Lacustrine, Palustrine, Riverine

Description and method logic

Method purpose

The purpose of AquaBAMM is to assess the conservation values of aquatic ecosystems within a specific area.


AquaBAMM is a decision support tool that utilises existing information and expert input to assess conservation value of aquatic ecosystems. It uses a robust and easily accessible analysis of ecological or conservation values associated with a catchment that is useful for catchment, subcatchment and regional planning.  It is applicable in freshwater riverine, freshwater non-riverine (lacustrine and palustrine) and estuarine wetlands.

Method logic

The method is consistent with the methods documented in national and international literature but tailored towards the local situation and a thorough assessment of data availability. It uses a database platform for data storage, manipulation and values assessment which outputs directly to a Geographic Information System (GIS) platform for result presentation and interpretation. The output is an aquatic conservation Assessment (ACA) for the study area.

Note: An AquaBAMM assessment is a comparison of conservation values in the study area only and cannot be compared with values in other catchments.

Criteria groupings of the method

Criteria from the most recent methods for assigning ecological or conservation values to aquatic ecosystems were reviewed.

Data required

For each spatial unit quantitative and qualitative data is needed.

Presence/absence of alien fish and exotic aquatic plant species, State of the Rivers aquatic vegetation condition, SIGNAL2 score, AUSRIVAS score - Edge, AUSRIVAS score -Pool, Index of macroinvertebrates (Ephemeroptera, Plecoptera, Trichoptera), State of the River bank, bed and bar stability, presence/absence of dams/weirs, inundation by dams weirs (% by length), snag removal, annual proportional flow deviation, percent natural flows, percent no flows, mean annual extraction, median total phosphorous, nitrogen, turbidity, conductivity and pH, presence/absence of exotic plants in riparian zone, % remnant vegetation relative to preclear extent within buffered watercourses, % area of wetland Regional Ecosystems (Res) within riparian areas relative to preclear extent, total number of Res within riparian areas relative to preclear number of Res within buffered watercourses, State of the River reach environs, State of the River riparian vegetation condition, % agricultural, grazing, vegetation and settlement land-use areas, farm storage surface area, richness of amphibians, native fish, native reptiles, native waterbirds and aquatic plants, number of macroinvertebrate taxa, riparian vegetation richness, State of the River channel diversity, richness of geomorphic features, presence of rare or threatened aquatic ecosystem dependent fauna and fauna species, % area of concern or endangered wetland Res relative to preclear extent.

Presence of aquatic ecosystem dependent priority fauna and flora species, habitat for, or presence of migratory species, habitat for significant numbers of waterbirds, presence of priority aquatic ecosystems, presence of distinct, unique or special geomorphic features, presence of distinct, unique or special ecological processes, presence of distinct, unique or special habitat that functions as refugia or other critical purpose, size of waterbody compared with others of same type, presence of distinct, unique or special hydrological regimes (e.g. spring), contribution upstream or downstream to the maintenance of significant species or populations, possibility of migratory or routine passage of fish and other fully aquatic species, contribution to maintenance of groundwater ecosystems with significant biodiversity values, contribution to maintenance of floodplain and wetland ecosystems with significant biodiversity values, extent to which waterbody retains critical ecological and hydrological connectivity with floodplains, rivers etc, contribution to maintenance of terrestrial ecosystems with significant biodiversity values, contribution to maintenance of estuarine and marine ecosystems with significant biodiversity values.

Resources required

Expertise required

High level expert knowledge, expert panels for aquatic and riparian flora, aquatic fauna and riverine ecology, spatial and non-spatial data, and the AquaBAMM assessment tool.

Materials required

A database platform for data storage, manipulation and values assessment, a Geographic Information System (GIS) platform for result presentation and interpretation.

Method outputs


An Aquatic Conservation Assessment (ACA) for a study area with a measure of ecological values for each spatial unit within the study area, calculated as an 'AquaScore'.


  • Environmental Values and Water Quality Objective process
  • Development assessment
  • Coastal management
  • Leasehold land review
  • Water resource plans
  • Resource operation plans
  • Planning schemes and matters of state significance
  • Investment strategies
  • On-ground works
  • Priority setting

Criteria by category

    Physical and chemical

    • Connectivity
      • Estuarine and marine ecosystems
      • Floodplain and wetland ecosystems
      • Groundwater dependent ecosystems
      • Terrestrial ecosystems
    • Diversity and richness
      • Geomorphology
    • Naturalness aquatic
      • Habitat features modification
      • Hydrological modification
      • Water quality
    • Naturalness catchment
      • Catchment disturbance
      • Flow modification
    • Special features
      • Ecological processes
      • Geomorphic features
      • Habitat
      • Hydrological


    • Priority species and ecosystems
      • Ecosystems
      • Species
    • Threatened species and ecosystems
      • Communities/assemblages
      • Species


    • Connectivity
      • Significant species or populations
    • Diversity and richness
      • Communities/assemblages
      • Species
    • Naturalness aquatic
      • Aquatic communities/assemblages
      • Exotic flora
    • Naturalness catchment
      • Exotic flora
      • Riparian disturbance
    • Special features
      • Community


    • Connectivity
      • Significant species or populations
    • Diversity and richness
      • Communities/assemblages
      • Habitat
      • Species
    • Naturalness aquatic
      • Aquatic communities/assemblages
      • Exotic fauna
    • Naturalness catchment
      • Exotic fauna


    • Naturalness catchment
      • Catchment disturbance
      • Flow Modifications
      • Riparian disturbance
    • Diversity richness
      • Habitat
    • Naturalness aquatic
      • Habitat features modification
    • Representativeness
      • Wetland uniqueness
    • Special features
      • Geomorphic features
      • Habitat


Recommended user

The method is to be used by those with GIS and analysis expertise.

Outputs relevant to natural resource managers including regional NRM bodies, State government agencies, Local government and water corporations.


  • Widely applicable.
  • Cost effective, doesn't require any additional data collection.
  • Data gaps have been accommodated in the assessment process.
  • Uses expert opinion to overcome lack of data.
  • Flexible with regard to scale and spatial unit.


  • Can only be used for comparison within catchments, not between catchments.
  • Results are 'best available' rather than definitive due to expert panel approach.
  • Requires a wide range of data types which may be unavailable or unreliable.
  • Differences in expert intellectual opinions.
  • Lag time.

Case studies

Aquatic Conservation Assessments

ACAs have now been undertaken for a number of areas within Queensland (see below) and provide a powerful decision-support tool that can be interrogated through a GIS platform.
Baffle Creek (see method)
Burnett River (see method)
Condamine River: superseded by the Queensland Murray-Darling Basin riverine and non-riverine ACA
Cape York Catchments                   
Great Barrier Reef
Lake Eyre and Bulloo Basins 
Queensland Murray-Darling Basin
Eastern Gulf of Carpentaria
Southeast Queensland
Wide Bay-Burnett Catchments


  1. Clayton, PD, Fielder, DP, Howell, S & Hill, CJ (2006), Aquatic Biodiversity Assessment and Mapping Method (AquaBAMM): a conservation values assessment tool for wetlands with trial application in the Burnett River catchment, Environmental Protection Agency, Brisbane.

Last updated: 7 February 2019

This page should be cited as:

Department of Environment and Science, Queensland (2019) AquaBAMM, WetlandInfo website, accessed 1 February 2023. Available at:

Queensland Government
WetlandInfo   —   Department of Environment and Science