Framework for describing the ecological character of Ramsar wetlands
Description and method logic
The framework is intended to guide the preparation of an ecological character description for a Ramsar wetland.
A framework has been developed to assist Ramsar site managers meet the requirements of the Ramsar Convention and the Australian Ramsar Management Principles (Environmental Protection Biodiversity Conservations (EPBC) Act (1999)). The framework provides background information on how to identify, describe and assess the ecological character, of a Ramsar site, including guidance on interpreting terms and addressing Ramsar Convention and Australian Government requirements.
The framework builds on previous work to develop a strategic approach to the description of ecological character that focuses on the ecosystem components and processes that support the most significant ecosystem services, primarily those that relate to the Ramsar criteria for which the site is listed.
To be included in Ramsar, a wetland must meet at least one of six criteria: biogeographic representativeness, important ecological or hydrological functions, provision of animal habitat during times of vulnerability or adverse conditions, support for more than 1% of national population of any taxa, support for any threatened taxa or communities; and historical or cultural significance.
The Ramsar Convention defines ecological character as the sum of the biological, physical and chemical components of the wetland ecosystem, and their interactions, which maintain the wetland and its products, functions, and attributes. This framework adapts the wetland ecosystem services from the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment and the Ramsar Convention to equate specific services to the products, functions and attributes in the ecological character.
It sets out a series of steps to preparing an ECD:
1. Introduction to the description
2. Describe the site
3. Identify and describe the critical components, processes and services
4. Develop conceptual models
5. Set limits of acceptable change
6. Identify threats to the ecological character of the site
7. Describe what constitutes changes to ecological character
8. Summarise the knowledge gaps
9. Identify site monitoring needs
10. Identify communication and education strategies
11. Complete ECD.
Criteria groupings of the method
Criteria are based on the Ramsar criteria. A wetland should be considered internationally important if it:
Published and informal literature relating to the components, processes and services/benefits of the site, including threats.
Stakeholders and experts.
Ramsar Information Sheet, site management plan, other published and informal information on the site,
This methodology is used to produce formal descriptions of the ecological character of a Ramsar site. The ECD is a rigorous assessment of the ecosystem components, processes and benefits/services of a site at the time of listing. It forms the basis against which any changes at the site can be assessed for significance.
The ECD’s can be used to support the requirements of the Ramsar Convention to maintain the ecological character of Ramsar sites and inform:
Criteria by category
Physical and chemical
Australian and Queensland governments, local government authorities, regional NRM groups, wetland site owners and landholders, non-government organisations, environmental industry and consultancies, agribusiness, research and tertiary institutions, regional and local wetland centres, and indigenous interest groups.
Last updated: 7 February 2019
This page should be cited as:
Department of Environment and Science, Queensland (2019) Framework for describing the ecological character of Ramsar wetlands, WetlandInfo website, accessed 1 February 2023. Available at: https://wetlandinfo.des.qld.gov.au/wetlands/resources/tools/assessment-search-tool/framework-for-describing-the-ecological-character-of-ramsar-wetlands/