An overview of wetland function and place within a watershed


An overview of wetland function and place within a watershed

Capacity to Deliver -


The issue

In taking a holistic view of catchment processes, soil and water behaviours have been introduced to a group within the context of telling a story. The story will be incomplete without an understanding of the role and function of wetlands in natural systems, including soil and water processes.

The solution

A group was taken along the river touring the various wetlands. Instructions on wetland assessment and function were discussed along the way, with an aim to illustrate soil and water processes within a watershed. Chain of Ponds in Strathfield to Mackay Park in Marrickville encompasses a 10km stretch of the Cooks River. Along this stretch, there are examples of Shrub, Meadow, Dense and Sparse emergent and Submergent wetland communities, including an artificial off-line wetland.


The impact

Wetlands are areas of land covered or saturated with water. Wetlands can be covered with fresh, brackish or salt water that’s generally still or slow moving. The water can also sit just below the surface. A better understanding of the whole being a sum of its parts is necessary with holistic management. Wetlands contribute a number of functions that benefit people. These are called ecosystem services and include water purification, groundwater replenishment, stabilization of shorelines and storm protection, water storage and flood control, processing of carbon (carbon fixation, decomposition and sequestration), other nutrients and pollutants, and support of plants and animals.


Every space has memory, and these memories gift us with our knowledge. Wetlands protect our shores from wave action, reduce the impacts of floods, absorb pollutants and improve water quality. They provide habitat for animals and plants and many contain a wide diversity of life, supporting plants and animals that are found nowhere else in the world.

Wetlands are areas where the presence of water determines or influences most, if not all, of an area's biogeochemistry—that is, the biological, physical, and chemical characteristics of a place. Many wetlands are transitional zones between upland and aquatic ecosystems, although others are scattered across the landscape in upland depressions that collect water or in zones where groundwater comes to the surface. The amount of water present in a wetland can vary greatly. Some wetlands are permanently flooded, while others are only seasonally flooded but retain saturated soils throughout much of the unflooded period. Different plant communities may be found in different types of wetlands, with each species adapted to the local hydrology. Wetland plants are often referred to as hydrophytes because they are specially adapted to grow in saturated soils.

Key facts

  • Wetlands are an important part of the Australian landscape. They act as filters for our waterways, breeding sites for hundreds of Australian animals and recreational centres for many communities.