The South West contains over 6,900 wetlands, totalling an area of 138,000 ha. The region’s wetlands are dynamic in character and type and support many nationally important fauna. Coastal swamps, shallow seasonal meadows and marshes, stony-rise lowlands and large permanent saline lakes are examples of the region’s diversity of wetlands.
Wetlands are integral to healthy functioning of ecosystems in the landscape, regulating water quality and contributing to biodiversity. They receive runoff, absorb and filter floodwaters, replenish groundwater reserves and act as direct surface water supplies.The wetlands of the South West region are an essential component of the natural environment and contribute significantly to the ecological, social and agricultural health of the region.
Climate change will greatly impact the region’s wetlands. A reduction in rainfall and runoff will cause some temporary wetlands to dry up permanently, while a reduction in water inflow may also cause an increase in salinity of some wetlands, and changes in the types of vegetation communities they can support. These changes will may lead to other impacts such as a loss of critical habitat for migratory and other bird species. There will also be an impact on some wetlands reliant on groundwater or springs.
Those most vulnerable wetlands include those that are already degraded, both freshwater and saline. There are many iconic wetlands in this category, and many of the wetlands on the Victorian Volcanic Plain. Wetlands that will be more resilient to climate change include those that have experienced little disturbance.