Wetland Tracker: Great Barrier Reef Catchment Wetland Condition Monitoring Program
Description and method logic
Wetland Tracker is a method for determining the condition of freshwater palustrine and lacustrine wetlands, however it can be used for longer term monitoring and tracking changes in wetland condition over time within Queensland’s Great Barrier Reef Catchment Area (GBRCA).
Wetland Tracker is the method used by the Great Barrier Reef Catchment Wetland Condition Monitoring Program (the Program) to provide data about freshwater wetland condition and inform the development of policy and management programs for sustaining the health and resilience of wetlands in the GBRCA. A Driver–Pressure–State–Impact–Response (DPSIR) conceptual framework is used. A spatially balanced, random sample of wetlands is monitored.
Wetland Tracker measures pressure and state using ecological indicators that can be applied rapidly to assess the level of disturbance to wetlands from local land use. The method can be used at multiple scales and across time, allowing changes in the condition of natural freshwater wetlands to be tracked
Wetland condition is the overarching term used to describe the pressures on, and the state of, wetland environmental values. Change in wetland condition is a measured reduction or increase in pressures on wetlands and/or shifts in state showing an improvement or decline in the environmental values of natural wetlands within the monitored population.
The Wetland Tracker condition index is comprised of Pressure Class (PC) and Wetland Environmental Values (WEVs) indices. Both pressure and state indices have a mix of desktop and field indicators. Indicators are assessed at different scales: the wetland itself along with its 200 m buffer (wetland scale), and for spatial indicators, the area within 1 km or 5km of the wetland boundary (landscape scale). Because the cycle of wet and dry phases of a wetland is highly variable both within and between wetlands, Wetland Tracker assesses wetland condition without using the direct indicators of water quality or wetland fauna populations (Direct indicators of water quality and fauna populations are used in validation research studies). Buffer zone and wetland vegetation is assessed regardless of whether the wetland is in a wet or dry phase.
Wetland Tracker assessments are conducted at the individual wetland scale and completed in three stages: 1) a desktop assessment, based on remotely sensed data and aerial imagery 2) a field assessment gathering on-ground data and 3) integrating scoring and analysis.
Desktop indicators of land use pressure on wetlands and the state of wetland environmental values are assessed using GIS based methods and before conducting a field assessment and field-truthing. Disturbance classes are characterised for field assessment, they underpin the selection of assessment traverses and sample plots locations in the wetland and 200m buffer zones. Refer to the Wetland Tracker field methods guide for guidance on completing field indicator datasheets and conducting repeat assessments.
Indicators are scored from one (least pressure or least disturbed state) to five (greatest pressure or most disturbed state).
The desktop and field indicator scores are combined to calculate an overall pressure score and an overall state score, plus scores for each of the WEVs and PCs. The overall index and sub-index scores are calculated independently. This acknowledges that multiple pressures impact multiple wetland environmental values, individually or with interaction. Also, calculating index scores directly from indicators equalises the indicators’ contribution on the overall index scores (overall pressure and overall state). By adding weights to indicators as a score calibration step, overall (index) scores can be adjusted, if needed, to emphasise the importance of some indicators over others. After average scores are calculated for indices and sub-indices, these aggregated Wetland Tracker scores are boosted to ensure that ecologically significant outlying indicator scores are not de-emphasised in the process of averaging. Refer to the Wetland Tracker field methods guide for guidance on completing scoring and analysis.
At all levels (indicator, sub-index and index), Wetland Tracker scores can be used to produce individual wetland report cards or averaged across a number of wetlands in a sample to give summary statistics for that sample.
Criteria groupings of the method
Wetland Tracker groups pressure indicators into four Pressure classes (PCs):
Wetland Tracker characterises the state of a wetland using four Wetland Environmental Values (WEVs) categories:
Criteria by category
Physical and chemical
Designed for state government agencies, natural resource management groups, and land managers
Reef Water Quality Report Card 2017 and 2018
Reef Water Quality Report Card 2019
Reef Water Quality Report Card 2020
Wetland monitoring pilot project case study
Last updated: 9 December 2022
This page should be cited as:
Department of Environment and Science, Queensland (2022) Wetland Tracker: Great Barrier Reef Catchment Wetland Condition Monitoring Program, WetlandInfo website, accessed 1 February 2023. Available at: https://wetlandinfo.des.qld.gov.au/wetlands/resources/tools/assessment-search-tool/wetland-tracker-great-barrier-reef-catchment-wetland-condition-monitoring/