Assessing wetland values and services
When assigning significance to a wetland or making management decisions about a wetland, it is important that decision makers take into account the full range of ecological, economic and social values a wetland provides.
Historically, wetland management decisions have favoured either wetland conversion or management for a single ecosystem service such as water supply or food production. As wetlands become scarcer and under more pressure, and as we develop a better understanding of the full range of values provided by them, the best options will increasingly involve managing wetlands for a broader array of services and in alignment with the wise use principles of the Ramsar Convention.
In order to consider wetland values and services a common framework and terminology is required. The maintenance and delivery of values and services is dependent on a range of aspects of a wetland including its components and supporting environmental processes. It is important to understand the processes at the scale at which they function ecologically, this may be broader than the wetland itself and incorporate the larger landscape.
Ecosystem services refer to the goods and services provided by ecosystems that benefit, sustain and support the environmental, social and economic well-being of people (SEQ Ecosystem Services Framework). These include provisioning services such as food and water; regulating services such as regulation of floods, drought, land degradation, and disease; supporting services such as soil formation and nutrient cycling; and cultural services such as recreational, spiritual, religious, and other non-material benefits.
Values include those benefits wetlands provide to people including existence values. Values provide context to ecosystem services by linking them directly to the people whom they benefit. Values refer to the benefits people receive from ecosystems and include ecosystem services. Values can include intrinsic existence benefits.
Beneficiaries are the people who benefit from wetland values and services. They can be located within, close to or far away from the wetland system. They can receive multiple benefits simultaneously and may or may not be aware of the benefits they are receiving (adapted from).
Values, ecological character and wise use of wetlands
A full suite of wetland values has been developed and can be used as the starting point for identifying the environmental values of a specific wetland. This incorporates the values identified in the Millennium Report: Ecosystems and Human Well-Being: Wetlands and Water and the Environmental Protection (Water) Policy 2009.
Central to maintaining and protecting the values of internationally and nationally important wetlands is understanding and documenting their ecological character. Ecological character is the combination of the ecosystem components, processes and benefits/services that characterise the wetland at a given point in time.
The National framework for describing the ecological character of Australian Ramsar Wetlands provides an example of how an understanding of the components, processes and services of wetlands is being used to inform management and research initiatives and identify pressures on wetlands.
Under the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment Conceptual Framework, the ‘wise use’ of wetlands equates to the maintenance of ecosystem benefits/services to ensure long-term maintenance of biodiversity as well as human well-being and poverty alleviation.
Wetland on-line education modules
A series of on-line education modules, including Deriving benefits and services from wetlands, has been prepared as a resource for people who want to learn more about wetlands.
Users can download and use the contents of this education module to meet their learning and training needs. This information should be used in conjunction with information found on this website.
Last updated: 22 March 2013
This page should be cited as:
Assessing wetland values and services, WetlandInfo, Department of Environment and Heritage Protection, Queensland, viewed 13 April 2017, .