WetlandsWetlands are areas of shallow water that are usually flooded for at least part of the year. They are distributed from the coast to inland areas and may occur at low and high altitudes. They include areas of marsh, fen and peatland, and may be found in streams and around lakes. They may be natural or artificial, permanent or temporary, static or flowing, and be fresh, brackish or salty. On some farms a small wetland may simply be a swampy area that has reeds and rushes. Plants and animals that live in wetlands are adapted to wet conditions for at least part of their life cycle. Many wetlands have dried out during the drought periods of the last 15 years. However, they may refill in the future.
Wetlands are among the world's most productive environments and their continuing loss and degradation is a major global problem. They are vital habitats and breeding grounds for many species, especially fish and waterbirds, some of which are in danger of extinction. They support wildlife that help to control insect pests on farms and provide important refuges for wildlife during drought. Wetlands help to purify water by acting as filters that trap sediment and nutrients. They reduce erosion and provide protection from floods by absorbing and slowly releasing water.
Wetlands are important habitats for many species, including some migratory species such as Lathams snipe (Gallinago hardwickii). A number of wetland bird species such as the Australasian shoveller (Anas rhynchotis rhynchotis) and the hard head (Aythya australis) are thought to be declining in numbers.
Refer to Threatened Species for more information.
There are numerous plants that grow in wetlands and around their edges. Once a wetlands has been established it is likely that a range of rushes (Juncus species) and bog rushes (Schoenus species) will appear.
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