Australia risks breaching its international commitments to preserve critical wetlands, with many fish and bird species facing extinction, new research shows.
Peer-reviewed papers by researchers at the Australian National University have identified critical problems in how state and federal governments have met obligations laid out in the Ramsar Convention, a global pact to protect wetlands.
They examined six of the 16 Ramsar-listed wetlands within the Murray-Darling Basin, home to the nation’s longest regularly flowing rivers and its primary food bowl. The basin is also the recipient of $13 billion to help restore its health, especially wetland areas that are critical for fish and birdlife.
The researchers assessed 52 different plans and strategies at federal and state levels intended to support areas such as the Macquarie Marshes and Narran Lakes in NSW with managed water flows.
“Despite stated objectives to conserve Ramsar wetlands in the Basin Plan, we found a pattern of complex and convoluted arrangements for delivering environmental water to [them] and a lack of transparency and accountability about how Ramsar obligations are considered within each jurisdiction,” said the researchers, Erin Kirsch, Jamie Pittock and Matt Colloff.