Western Australia nominates wetlands for international recognition

The State Government of Western Australia has increased its commitment to wetland conservation by nominating three sites for listing under the International Convention on Wetlands, known as the Ramsar Convention.

The Western Australian Minister for the Environment, Cheryl Edwards, presented a Ramsar wetland nomination document to the Federal Environment Ministry for wetland systems at Becher Point near Rockingham, Lake Gore near Esperance, and the Muir-Byenup complex east of Manjimup. Four already existing Ramsar sites have also been nominated for expansion of the designations.

Edwards said that Becher Point, for example, was important due to it being one of the youngest wetland systems on the Swan Coastal Plain. “This wetland was formed only in the past 4,500 years and consequently, it has particular significance in terms of research interest in the evolution of wetlands,” said Edwards. “Lake Gore is habitat for almost one-third of the world’s population of hooded plovers and 10% of the global population of banded stilts. It also is a drought refuge for many thousands of other waterbirds.”

“The Muir-Byenup system includes numerous lakes and swamps,” continued Edwards. “This complex is also a natural diversity recovery catchment under the State Salinity Strategy. As well as providing habitat for tens of thousands of waterbirds – more than 51,000 individual birds have been recorded in a single survey – it has almost 650 species of native plants, many of them rare.”

As well as birds, the wetlands are refuge for a variety of species. Becher Point includes sedgelands listed in the national register of threatened habitats, and is also notably home to 21 species of reptile and four amphibians. Lake Muir is home to seven species of fish, six of which are endemic to the south-west, and three recently discovered species of water beetle. The system also includes three species of wetland orchids which are listed as vulnerable, and several other flora species with highly restricted distributions.

“I am pleased that nearly $50,000 (US$26,000) of funding from the Federal Government’s Natural Heritage Trust has helped to protect these unique wetland areas of Western Australia,” said Dr Sharman Stone, Parliamentary Secretary to the Federal Minister for the Environment and Heritage. “All three of the areas being nominated are of truly international significance and deserve their standing alongside other Ramsar sites both here and overseas.”

The sites nominated for expansion of their designations includes the Vasse-Wannerup system of lagoons, which supports the largest regular breeding colony of Black Swans in South-Western Australia, and the Ord River Floodplain, home to an important population of the globally threatened saltwater crocodile.

The Convention on Wetlands is an international treaty that promotes the conservation of wetlands of international significance and the wise use of wetlands generally. The convention was first adopted in 1971 at a meeting in Ramsar, Iran.

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