Australia is known for our pristine, sandy beaches, but on World Wetlands Day, we want to take a moment to celebrate their biodiversity rich cousinswetlands. 

You may have visited a wetland on a high-school excursion and traipsed through mud while examining life amongst the mangroves. But often we don't appreciate how unique these ecosystems are and why protecting them is vital for the survival of many threatened species.

What are wetlands? 

Wetlands are land areas that are saturated or flooded with water either permanently or seasonally and can include inland rivers and coastal or marine water. Think rivers, lakes, floodplains, mangroves, estuaries, mudflats, billabongs and coral reefs.

wetlands at Toondah Harbour

Wetlands at Toondah Harbour in Moreton Bay. Photo: Nikki Michail.

Why are wetlands so important?

  • Home to threatened species and diverse wildlife: From dugongs to migratory birds, bugs, fish and crabs; countless animals call wetlands home.
  • Critical feeding grounds for local and migratory birds: The Eastern Curlew travels an incredible 6,000km every year to feed at wetlands like Toondah Harbour in Moreton Bay.
  • Filter and improve water quality: Wetlands improve the water quality of river systems by filtering out pollutants and absorbing nutrients.
  • Act as a buffer against storms: Wetlands can reduce the impacts of storms and flooding on inland areas.
  • Lessen the impact of climate change globally: Wetlands such as peatlands, mangrove forests, salt marshes and seagrass beds store 20% of the organic ecosystem carbon on the planet, even though they cover only 1% of the Earth's surface.

Eastern Curlew

The Eastern curlew travels 6,000km every year to feed at wetlands such as Toondah Harbour in Moreton Bay.

Fighting to protect Toondah Harbour

Located at the southern end of Moreton Bay, Queensland, Toondah Harbour is a wetland at risk.

Six years ago, then environment minister Josh Frydenberg ignored his department’s advice to reject a damaging building proposal in Toondah Harbour. The proposal by the Walker Group planned to drain the mudflats and mangroves at Toondah Harbour and build a marina and high-rise apartment complex.

This proposal by the Walker Group is still alive and being considered in 2024. If the proposal goes ahead, it will destroy over 40 hectares of RAMSAR site and decimate the homes of critically endangered animals – pushing them closer to extinction.

Tanya Plibersek will be making her decision on whether to approve this destructive proposal in the next few months. This year, the ACF team will be on the ground in Toondah Harbour celebrating World Wetlands Day and raising our voices alongside the community to say NO to this nature-wrecking and irresponsible proposal. Help us from afar by emailing Minister Plibersek to stop this environmental disaster.

By World Wetlands Day next year, we hope we can reflect on this day and celebrate the decision to protect the home of countless precious species.

Header image: Aerial image of Toondah Harbour, Moreton Bay. Photo: Nikki Michail.

Brendan Sydes

National Biodiversity Policy Adviser