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Wetland Tracker: Great Barrier Reef Catchment Wetland Condition Monitoring Program

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Developer

Queensland Government

Latest documentation

2022

Designed for use in

Queensland, Australia
Great Barrier Reef Catchment Area

Ongoing

Yes

Assessment purpose

Condition

Assessment criteria

Socio-cultural, Ecosystem/habitat, Physical and chemical, Flora, Fauna

Method type

Field, desktop, field truthing

Timescale

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

Scale

Landscape/Catchment, Site/habitat

Wetland system

Lacustrine, Palustrine

Description and method logic

Method purpose

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)[1].

Summary

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[2].  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.

Method logic

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[3]. 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):
  • PC 1 biological introduction pressures
  • PC 2 habitat modification pressures
  • PC 3 water regime change pressures
  • PC 4 input pressures (including nutrients, sediments, pesticides etc.)

Wetland Tracker characterises the state of a wetland using four Wetland Environmental Values (WEVs) categories:
  • WEV 1 The biological health and diversity of the wetland ecosystem (biotic integrity)
  • WEV 2 The wetland’s natural physical state and integrity (local physical integrity)
  • WEV 3 The wetland’s natural hydrological cycle (local hydrology)
  • WEV 4 The natural interaction of the wetland with other ecosystems, including other wetlands (connectivity).

Data required

  • Aerial imagery
  • GIS data
  • Datasets corresponding to the pressure indicators (e.g. built up areas, hydrographic features)
  • Regional ecosystem data
  • Disturbance class information
  • Hydrology data, including modifiers and data from WetlandMaps
  • Vegetation cover (native and pest)
  • Conceptual models
  • Landscape connectivity data
  • Collected field data

Resources required

Expertise required

  • Expert knowledge in GIS
  • Expertise in aerial imagery interpretation
  • Field method knowledge and expertise
  • Botanical and vegetation expertise
  • Environmental science knowledge
  • Data management skills, including QA/QC skills
  • Statistical expertise

Materials required

  • Field assessment workbooks
  • GIS software and GIS-enabled data repository (e.g. Geodatabase)
  • Microsoft Access for storing a master file of WT scores
  • Geographic Information System (GIS) platform for result presentation and interpretation
  • Statistical platform (e.g. Python or R).

Method outputs

Outputs

  • Scores for Pressure Classes on wetlands in the GBRCA
  • Scores for Wetland Environmental Values in the GBRCA
  • Overall scores for Pressure and State of wetlands in the GBRCA to be fed into the Reef 2050 Water Quality Report Cards

Uses

  • Rapid assessment of wetland condition
  • Wetland monitoring
  • Informing policy and management programs for conserving wetlands in the GBRCA

Criteria by category

    Physical and chemical

    • Input pressures (including nutrients, sediments, pesticides etc.)
      • Land associated with nutrient inputs
      • Land use associated with pesticide residue inputs
      • Number of septic systems within 200 m of the wetland, per ha of mapped wetland
      • Number of stormwater or other point inflows per ha of wetland
      • Sediment supply (modelled, GBR)
    • The wetland’s natural hydrological cycle (local hydrology)
      • Altered surface flow due to linear transport infrastructure
      • Drainage modifications and artificial structures altering natural surface flows
      • Modified and artificial wetlands
      • QWP hydrological modifier code for the mapped wetland
    • The wetland’s natural physical state and integrity (local physical integrity)
      • Direct disturbance by humans, livestock, or feral pests physically impacting soil
      • Soil surface deformation from livestock or feral pests in the mapped wetland
    • Water regime change pressures
      • Abstraction (water taken out for use) or consumption by livestock or feral animals
      • Altered surface water flow due to vegetation cleared
      • Change in landscape hydrological integrity

    Socio-cultural

    • Recreational use (optional)

    Flora

    • Biological introduction pressures
      • Land use associated with the introduction or perpetuation of pest species
      • Plant pest cover in 200 m buffer
      • Plant pest cover in mapped wetland
    • The biological health and diversity of the wetland ecosystem
      • Exotic plant cover
      • Floristic composition and vegetation structure

    Fauna

    • Biological introduction pressures
      • Land use associated with the introduction or perpetuation of pest species

    Ecosystem/habitat

    • Habitat modification pressures
      • Loss of wetland regional ecosystems within 5 km of the wetland
      • Modification of native vegetation in the 200 m buffer
      • Native vegetation cleared within 5 km of the wetland
    • The natural interaction of the wetland with other ecosystems, including other wetlands (connectivity)
      • Landscape vegetation connectivity
      • Native vegetation in the 200 m buffer

Review

Recommended user

Designed for state government agencies, natural resource management groups, and land managers

Strengths

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

Limitations

  • When the monitored sample comprises a large number of wetlands a high amount of logistical information is required (e.g. travel, landholder agreement/requirements, on-ground conditions)

Case studies

Links


References

  1. ^ Sutcliffe, T, Hudson, S, Johns, C & Vandergragt, ML (2022), Wetland Tracker: Great Barrier Reef catchment wetland condition monitoring program, Desktop Methods Guide. [online], Department of Environment and Science, Brisbane, Queensland. Available at: https://www.publications.qld.gov.au/ckan-publications-attachments-prod/resources/7f8e6213-a725-4d98-8566-45bff2218b9e/wetland_tracker_desktop_methods_guide.pdf?ETag=9f863cc2171f99b0b3caac49c1a46529.
  2. ^ Tilden, JD & Vandergragt, ML (2022), Great Barrier Reef catchment condition monitoring program: tracking the condition of freshwater wetlands. [online], Department of Environment and Science, Brisbane, Queensland. Available at: https://www.publications.qld.gov.au/ckan-publications-attachments-prod/resources/4774ea53-4399-47ef-a59b-9cde9132fcbc/wetland-tracker_great-barrier-reef-catchment-wetland-condition-monitoring-program.pdf?ETag=ca7403f213b5bce13feecc31bf53defd.
  3. ^ Johns, C, Tilden, JD, Sutcliffe, T & Vandergragt, ML (2022), Wetland Tracker: Great Barrier Reef catchment wetland condition monitoring program, Field Methods Guide and Workbook. [online], Department of Environment and Science, Brisbane, Queensland. Available at: https://www.publications.qld.gov.au/ckan-publications-attachments-prod/resources/45060399-624f-43f5-89c7-8fec52f3f8b9/wetland-tracker_field_methods_guide.pdf?ETag=cc31690a5dab575e00b90de268b4bf82.

Last updated: 9 December 2022

This page should be cited as:

Department of Environment, Science and Innovation, Queensland (2022) Wetland Tracker: Great Barrier Reef Catchment Wetland Condition Monitoring Program, WetlandInfo website, accessed 1 February 2024. Available at: https://wetlandinfo.des.qld.gov.au/wetlands/resources/tools/assessment-search-tool/wetland-tracker-great-barrier-reef-catchment-wetland-condition-monitoring/

Queensland Government
WetlandInfo   —   Department of Environment, Science and Innovation