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Wetland Condition Assessment Tool (WetCAT): A Condition Assessment Tool for Measuring Event Recovery and Rehabilitation in Palustrine and Lacustrine Wetlands in Queensland

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Queensland Government

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Designed for use in



Assessment purpose

Condition, Management effectiveness

Assessment criteria

Physical and chemical, Ecosystem/habitat, Flora, Fauna

Method type

Field, desktop, field truthing


Rapid-long term – WetCAT is a rapid assessment, however, it can be used for longer term monitoring if the assessment is repeated over time.

A site should be assessed at least once a year, at the same (or very similar) stage of the wetland’s water regime. Additionally, where feasible, a site should be assessed as soon as practicable after a management intervention or rain, flow (e.g. flood) storm, cyclone, drought or bushfire event.


Landscape/Catchment, Region, Site/habitat

Wetland system

Lacustrine, Palustrine

Description and method logic

Method purpose

The Wetland Condition Assessment Tool (WetCAT) is a rapid assessment tool to measure the change in condition of lacustrine and palustrine wetlands in response to 1) an event such as a bushfire or flood, and/or 2) from the impacts of management interventions such as rehabilitation activities. WetCAT is designed to demonstrate if a project has achieved an intended outcome, typically based on rehabilitation activities within the timeframe of a project or funding cycle and is primarily focussed on biodiversity.


WetCAT implements a whole-of-system approach to assessing the condition of wetlands, and is part of the "Aquatic Ecosystem Rehabilitation Process"<". For the purposes of WetCAT, ‘condition’ refers to the state of a wetland and its ability to deliver services. The assessment includes a site-scale assessment of condition together with an assessment of threats at the wetland surrounding area and landscape-scale. The broader assessment of threats contributes to a better understanding of  the relationship between how changes in condition at the wetland site-scale are affected by threats acting within the wetlands surrounding area and/or the landscape scale. WetCAT is designed to compare the same type of wetland (including its water regime) over time. For example, if a wetland is hydrologically modified (e.g. a ponded pasture) it needs to be compared to others of the same type, not a pre-European type.

WetCAT assessments use indicators to 1) assess impacts from an event such as bushfire/flood/drought and 2) demonstrate the outcomes of a management intervention. WetCAT uses observations and other information, such as spatial data, mapping and other evidence, to support the assessment. The techniques to score the indicators are user-defined, based on considerations such as project objectives, resourcing/funding, expertise, existing data and techniques, regional setting. The user must be able to justify the score assigned for each indicator on the data sheets explaining the causal links that underpin the indicator scores.

Several indicators in WetCAT require a wetland to be compared to the condition that is understood to be normal for the wetland type in that geographic area. Normal is defined as the long-term state of a wetland based on long-term data and/or field experience but does not necessarily represent pre-European development. Therefore, WetCAT requires the user to have a good understanding of the wetlands that they are working with.

The WetCAT assessment is based on indicators for five themes. These themes represent the four broad components that make up any wetland and a fifth (other) theme which includes indicators that may impact on the other four components:
  • Water
  • Soil/sediment
  • Plant
  • Animal
  • Other.

The methods used to score WetCAT indicators may be direct or indirect. Examples of direct measurements of indicators includes observations of pest species in a wetland, or water quality measures taken onsite by a water probe. Examples of indirect measurements of indicators can be evidence of pugging and algal blooms. The field technique used to score the indicators (e.g. using drones, traversing the wetland, assessment from a vantage point) will need to suit regional and project settings, purposes, and challenges. It is critical that the methods used to score the indicators are recorded on the data sheets and in the Condition Assessment Monitoring Plan (CAMP - see below) to ensure consistent assessment methods are used over time for the project.

Method logic

Desktop Assessment

Prior to completing a WetCAT assessment, a Condition Assessment Monitoring Plan (CAMP) needs to be developed. The CAMP is a foundational process that describes the expected outcomes of the project, including a project map, summary wetland information (e.g. wetland system/type, regional ecosystem, and wetland habitats (including hydromodifier), and expected changes for each indicator.  It also serves as a record to inform others who may not have been involved in the design of the project or its assessment/monitoring approach, supporting understanding and underpinning logic for future assessments.

A project map should be developed to identify project features to ensure that any assessment and monitoring is consistent over time and to make sure the critical features affecting the condition of the wetlands are considered.

Features that may need to be shown on the project map include:
  • Wetland Features (e. project area and project site(s) and assessment point(s), waterways, wetland type/mapping, etc.)
  • Constructed Features (e.groads, tracks, walkways, accesses, entrances, parking, etc.)
  • Workplace health and safety considerations (e.g. hazards)

Field Assessment

For each assessment unit:
  • define the area of thunit (e.g. 10x10m quadrat, 100m transect)
  • from the location centroid, take photographs in all cardinal directions
  • traverse the area of th unit, where possible
  • gather information required to score the indicators on the data sheet, noting the score is for the defined assessment unit (with incidental observations recorded on the data sheet to provide context for the assessment but not the score directly)
  • condition indicators (at the assessment unit) and threat (at the wetland surrounding area and the landscape scale) indicators must be scored separately.

Criteria groupings of the method

Condition indicators:
Water theme
  • C1 – Water regime
  • C2 – Water quality
Soil/sediment theme
  • C3 – Soil surface destabilisation, erosion, or deposition
  • C4 – Soil disturbance or compaction by humans (foot) or vehicle or hooved animals.
Plant theme
  • C5 – Vegetation cover
  • C6 – Exotic wetland vegetation cover
Animal theme
  • C7 - Wetland macroinvertebrate diversity and abundance
  • C8 - Native and aquatic fauna diversity
  • C9 – Litter and illegal dumping
  • C10 – Appropriate connections for biodiversity
  • C11 – Physical habitat requirements for fish and other vertebrates
  • C12 - Fire impacts

Threats (for both wetland surrounding area- and landscape-scale) are grouped under 12 indicators:
  • T1 Land use

Data required

Data on wetland mapping, regional ecosystem mapping, information on native plants and animals, groundwater dependancy, weeds and feral animals, hydrological information, threats, conservation assessments, photographic records, aerial photographs (historic), water quality, conceptual models and visual cues.

Resources required

Expertise required

Data on wetland mapping, regional ecosystem mapping, information on native plants and animals, groundwater dependancy, weeds and feral animals, hydrological information, threats, conservation assessments, photographic records, aerial photographs (historic), water quality, conceptual models and visual cues.

Materials required

The following equipment may be required for the assessment:
  • CAMP (printed and laminated)
  • project map and other supporting maps
  • the WetCAT data sheets in printed form (on waterproof paper if available)
  • clipboard, pencils, sharpener
  • data lists and reference materials (including those prepared from the desktop assessment)
  • a compass, GPS, or smart phone with maps (if available)
  • digital camera or smart phone with camera
  • other communication devices for safety (satellite phone, walky-talky, etc.)
  • knife/scissors, zip lock sample bags, and labels
  • safety equipment (including a first aid kit)
  • water and sun protection
  • suitable clothing and footwear, including optional wet weather gear
  • wetland plants and animals’ identification books (optional)
  • a small dinghy or canoe (if required for adequate access).
  • field computer or tablet for data entry (optional)
  • phone with WetCAT Survey 123 App already downloaded (under development).
  • dip nets
  • quadrats (10 x10 m)
  • measuring tape
  • optional flora and fauna survey equipment includina drone.

Method outputs


  • Condition Assessment Monitoring Plan (CAMP)
  • A score of condition of and threats to a particular wetland
  • Quantitative ecological data


  • Rapid assessment of wetland condition and threats
  • Wetland monitoring

Criteria by category

    Physical and chemical

    • Soil/sediment theme
      • Soil disturbance or compaction by humans (foot or vehicle) or hooved animals
      • Soil disturbance or compaction by humans or hooved animals
      • Soil surface destabilisation, erosion, or deposition
    • Water theme
      • Extraction of groundwater or surface water (threat)
      • Inflows from modified landscapes (threat)
      • Land use (threat)
      • Major hydrological modifications (threat)
      • Minor hydrological modifications (threat)
      • Septic systems (threat)
      • Water quality
      • Water regime


    • Plant Theme
      • Exotic wetland plants
      • Exotic wetland vegetation cover
      • Native vegetation clearing
      • Vegetation cover


    • Animal Theme
      • Collection and harvesting of wetland species
      • Exotic predators
      • Native aquatic fauna diversity
      • Wetland animal pests
      • Wetland macroinvertebrate diversity and abundance


    • Appropriate connections for biodiversity
    • Fire impacts
    • Litter and illegal dumping
    • Physical habitat requirements for fish and other vertebrates


Recommended user

Natural resource management groups, rangers, scientists, First Nations People caring for Country. Anyone interested in understanding if a management intervention investment has been successful on-ground.


  • Fast and effective measure of wetland condition as it relates to several indicators
  • Tested and validated indicators and approach


  • Requires extensive existing knowledge of the wetland being assessed
  • Does not assess social indicators, so some projects may need to find other methods for measuring the success of such aspects of a project

Case studies



  1. Eyre, TJ, Kelly, AL, Neldner, VJ, Wilson, BA, Ferguson, DJ, Laidlaw, MJ & Franks, AJ (2015), BioCondition: A Condition Assessment Framework for Terrestrial Biodiversity in Queensland. Assessment Manual. Version 2.2.. [online], Queensland Herbarium, Department of Science, Information Technology, Innovation and Arts, Brisbane. Available at:
  2. Burrows, A & Scott, P (2020), BioCAT: Biocondition Assessment Tool Guideline A rapid tool to detect changes in native vegetation communities. Developed using the Queensland Herbarium’s BioCondition as the foundation, DNRME Natural Resources Investment Program (NRIP).
  3. Queensland Government (2015), Groundwater dependent ecosystem FAQs. [online] Available at:

Last updated: 24 June 2022

This page should be cited as:

Department of Environment and Science, Queensland (2022) Wetland Condition Assessment Tool (WetCAT): A Condition Assessment Tool for Measuring Event Recovery and Rehabilitation in Palustrine and Lacustrine Wetlands in Queensland, WetlandInfo website, accessed 1 February 2023. Available at:

Queensland Government
WetlandInfo   —   Department of Environment and Science