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Wetland Prioritisation Decision Support System (DSS) Great Barrier Reef Catchment

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Australian Department of Environment and Heritage through the Queensland Wetland Program

Latest documentation


Designed for use in

Queensland, Australia



Assessment purpose

Management effectiveness, Prioritisation, Values/Services

Assessment criteria

Socio-cultural, Significance, Physical and chemical, Management and planning, Flora, Fauna, Economic

Method type

Desktop, expert panel


Medium term – The DSS could be re-run for the GBR catchments. Additional time would be required to use improved or new data. The DSS could also quickly be adapted for use in other regions with limited modifications.


Landscape/Catchment, Region, Site/habitat

Wetland system

Estuarine, Lacustrine, Marine, Palustrine, Riverine

Description and method logic

Method purpose

To strategically prioritise wetlands for investment. The DSS operates at two scales. The primary DSS prioritises wetland aggregations within the GBR catchments and uses GIS analysis methods to priroritise existing catchment scale datasets. The secondary DDS is used to prioritise individual wetlands using local expert knowledge and GIS analysis.


The decision support system (DSS) aims to use biophysical, socio-economic, community capacity, threat data and expert consultation to identify high priority wetlands for strategic investment and to achieve greater accountability and transparency in wetland prioritisation.

The development of the wetland DSS involved a number of steps including a review of international and national literature and decision support systems, data assessments, data processing and workshopping with nominated experts and stakeholders.

The DSS operates at two scales. The primary DSS prioritises wetland aggregations within the GBR catchments and uses GIS analysis methods to priroritise existing catchment scale datasets. The secondary DDS is used to prioritise individual wetlands using local expert knowledge and GIS analysis. Primary and secondary wetland DSS tools have been developed in separate MS Excel workbooks which provide the user with the capacity to view prioritisation results, assign priorities to criteria and, for the secondary DSS, input data for wetland criteria.

The Primary and Secondary DDSs were tested at a series of workshops with regional and local decision makers. The results were then interrogated and feedback received for the participants. The DSS and associated reports have been externally peer reviewed and a sensitivity analysis has been undertaken.

The DSS could be improved as new data becomes available and as experience grows in using the system.

Method logic

The wetland DSS is based on a multi-criteria assessment method to determine wetland priorities and allows different alternative views to be assessed through weighted measurable criteria.  Criteria were developed and then assessed and weighted in a series of expert panel and stakeholder workshops. Weighting allowed for value judgements to be made about the criteria and their importance when making a decision.

Criteria groupings of the method

Wetland values, threats and capacity generated by analysis of available data, current NRM frameworks, wetland types and different decision makers and stakeholders in the GBR catchment.

Data required

  • Regional Ecosystems of Queensland
  • Wetland aggregation dataset
  • Queensland Wetand Inventory
  • Nested catchments
  • Census data - population density
  • ASGC Digital Boundaries
  • Queensland Land Use Mapping Project (QLUMP)
  • Dams and Weirs in Queensland
  • National Pollutant Inventory
  • Socio-economic indices for areas (SEIFA)
  • National Native Title Register
  • Registered and Notified Indigenous Land Use Agreements
  • Collaborative Australian Protected Areas (CAPAD)
  • User-defined wetland areas

Resources required

Expertise required

Facilitator familiar with use of the DSS and understanding of the criteria, participants with high level of information on the criteria, assumptions and uncertainties.

Materials required

MS Excel workbooks, DSS Primary and Secondary tools, spatial datasets.

Method outputs


  • A list of wetland  prioritised for investment according to specific management objectives.


  • To support optimal allocation of funding for wetland restoration and protection for the long term conservation and management of the Great Barrier Reef.

Criteria by category

    Physical and chemical

    • Primary values
      • Aggregation area
    • Secondary threats
      • Aquatic habitat connectivity restriction
      • Hydrological change
      • Water quality
    • Secondary values
      • Assimilative capacity for nutrients and sediments
      • Size
      • Wetland condition


    • Primary threats
      • Point source pollution risk
      • Population density
      • Population growth
    • Primary values
      • Economic resources
      • Socio-economic disadvantage
    • Secondary capacity
      • Best management practice feasibility
      • Financial incentives
      • Industry land use viability


    • Primary values
      • Education and occupation
      • Indigenous land areas
      • Socio-economic disadvantage
    • Secondary capacity
      • Engagement capacity
    • Secondary values
      • Indigenous value
      • Recreational value

    Management and planning

    • Primary threats
      • Catchment land-use intensity
      • Hydrological change (irrigation)
    • Primary values
      • Fishery habitat value
    • Secondary threats
      • Land use intensification
      • Land use intensity
      • Point-source pollution


    • Primary values
      • Diversity of wetland types
      • Protected areas
    • Secondary capacity
      • Level of protection
    • Secondary values
      • Populations of rare or threatened taxa
      • Wetland representativeness


    • Primary values
      • Proportion of remnant vegetation
      • Vegetation representativeness
    • Secondary threats
      • Weed invasion
    • Secondary values
      • Species richness/diversity
      • Vegetation representativeness


    • Secondary values
      • Fishery habitat
      • Species richness/diversity
      • Waterbird habitat value


Recommended user

Natural resource managers, including NRM bodies, community groups, government agencies, local government.


  • Inherent flexibility which allows the system to be applied to multiple management objectives and outcomes.
  • Ability to use data in different formats.
  • Ability to work at multiple scales.
  • Ability to provide transparency to decision making process.
  • Enables ownership by decision makers.
  • Able to be updated as data is improved.


  • Accuracy, availability and relevancy of the criteria data used in making the tool
  • Need to use in a workshop setting with facilitator familiar with system
  • System supports rather than makes decisions
  • Can't calculate amount of funding required for each wetland
  • Doesn't recognise individual wetlands in their catchment context or connectivity with other systems.

Case studies

(not documented)



  1. HLA-Envirosciences (2006) Final DDS Report Wetland Prioritisation Decision Support System - Great Barrier Reef Catchment. Unpublished report for Department of Environment and Water, Canberra.

Last updated: 7 February 2019

This page should be cited as:

Department of Environment and Science, Queensland (2019) Wetland Prioritisation Decision Support System (DSS) Great Barrier Reef Catchment, WetlandInfo website, accessed 1 February 2023. Available at:

Queensland Government
WetlandInfo   —   Department of Environment and Science