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Wetland Prioritisation Decision Support System Great Barrier Reef Catchment


Australian Department of Environment and Heritage

Method type



Great Barrier Reef catchment


Aggregation, Regional, Sub-regional

Purpose types

Management, Priority

Water types

Estuarine, Freshwater, Marine


decision support, wetland


The DSS aims to use biophysical, socio-economic, community capacity and threat data and expert consultation to identify higher priority wetlands for strategic investment and to achieve greater accountability and transparency in wetland prioritisation.

The development of the wetland DSS involved a number of steps including a review of international and national literature and DSSs, data assessments, data processing and workshopping with nominated experts and stakeholders. The wetland DSS is based on a multi-criteria assessment method to determine wetland priorities and allows different alternative views to be assessed through weighted measurable criteria.  Criteria were developed and then assessed and weighted in a series of expert panel and stakeholder workshops. Weighting allowed for value judgements to be made about the criteria and their importance when making a decision.

The DSS operates at two scales. The primary DSS prioritises wetland aggregations within the GBR catchments and uses GIS analysis methods to process existing catchment scale datasets. The secondary DDS is used to prioritise individual wetlands using local expert knowledge and GIS analysis. Primary and secondary wetland DSS tools have been developed in separate MS Excel workbooks which provide the user with the capacity to view prioritisation results, assign priorities to criteria and, for the secondary DSS, input data for wetland criteria.

The Primary and Secondary DDSs were tested at a series of workshops with regional and local decision makers. The results were then interrogated and feedback received for the participants. The DSS and associated reports have been externally peer reviewed and a sensitivity analysis has been undertaken.

The DSS could be improved as new data becomes available and as experience grows in using the system.

Purpose summary

  • To strategically prioritise wetlands for investment.


  • Management
    • Decision support
  • Priority
    • Restoration priorities


  • A list of wetland aggregations prioritised for investment according to specific management objectives.


  • To support optimal allocation of funding for wetland restoration and protection for the long term conservation and management of the Great Barrier Reef.


  • Inherent flexibility which allows the system to be applied to multiple management objectives and outcomes.
  • Ability to use data in different formats.
  • Ability to work at multiple scales.
  • Ability to provide transparency to decision making process.
  • Enables ownership by decision makers.
  • Able to be updated as data is improved.


  • Accuracy, availability and relevancy of the criteria data used in making the tool.
  • Still important to use in a workshop setting with facilitator familiar with system.
  • System supports rather than makes decisions.
  • Can't calculate amount of funding required for each wetland.
  • Ineligible wetlands may affect outcomes.
  • Doesn't recognise individual wetlands in their catchment context or connectivity with other systems.

Criteria basis

Wetland values, threats and capacity generated by analysis of available data, current NRM frameworks, wetland types and different decision makers and stakeholders in the GBR catchment.

Resources required

DSS Primary and Secondary tools, spatial datasets, facilitator familiar with use of the DSS and understanding of the criteria, participants with high level of information on the criteria, assumptions and uncertainties.

Time required

Medium-short term

The DSS could be re-run for the GBR catchments quickly. Additional time would be required to use improved or new data. The DSS could also quickly be adapted for use in other regions with limited modifications.

Data required

Regional Ecosystems of Queensland
Wetland aggregation dataset
Queensland Wetand Inventory
Nested catchments
Census data - population density
ASGC Digital Boundaries
Queensland Land Use Mapping Project (QLUMP)
Dams and Weirs in Queensland
National Pollutant Inventory
Socio-economic indices for areas (SEIFA)
National Native Title Register
Registered and Notified Indigenous Land Use Agreements
Collaborative Australian Protected Areas (CAPAD)
User-defined wetland areas

Recommended users

Natural resource managers, including NRM bodies, government agencies, local government.


  • Ecological importance:
    • Primary values
      • Vegetation representativeness
      • Diversity of wetland types
      • Aggregation area
      • Proportion of remnant vegetation
      • Fishery habitat value
      • Detention/retention
    • Secondary threats
      • Aquatic habitat connectivity restriction
      • Landuse intensity
      • Land use intensification
      • Weed invasion
      • Water quality
      • Point source pollution
      • Hydrological change
    • Secondary values
      • Recreation value
      • Indigenous value
      • Fishery habitat
      • Assimilative capacity for nutrients and sediments
      • Populations of rare or threatened taxa
      • Vegetation representativeness
      • Wetland representativeness
      • Species richness/diversity
      • Size
      • Waterbird habitat value
      • Wetland condition
  • Economic importance:
    • Primary capacity
      • Socio-economic disadvantage
      • Education and occuption
      • Economic resources
      • Indigenous land areas
      • Protected areas
    • Primary threats
      • Population density
      • Population growth
      • Catchment land-use intensity
      • Aquatic habitat connectivity restriction
      • Point source pollution risk
      • Hydrological change (irrigation)
    • Secondary capacity
      • Level of protection
      • Financial incentives
      • Industry land use viability
      • Engagement capacity
      • Best management practive feasibility

Case studies

(not documented)


HLA-Envirosciences (2006) Final DDS Report Wetland Prioritisation Decision Support System - Great Barrier Reef Catchment Unpublished report for Department of Environment and Water, Canberra.


Last updated: 22 March 2013

This page should be cited as:

Wetland Prioritisation Decision Support System Great Barrier Reef Catchment, WetlandInfo 2007, Department of Environment and Heritage Protection, Queensland, viewed 12 September 2017, <>.

Queensland Government
WetlandInfo   —   Department of Environment and Heritage Protection