ILWS - Charles Sturt University
ILWS - Charles Sturt University

Wetland Conservation and Management

  • About
  • Issue
  • Members
  • Projects
  • Publications
  • Postgrad Research
  • Engagement


The information on these pages is accurate to the end of 2016 when reporting for SRA was completed for the 2015-16 Biennial Report.  All reporting for our projects is now found in relevant areas under the four research themes.

Group leader Professor Max Finlayson

The Institute has been actively involved in various projects and research activities in and around wetlands, since inception. When Professor Max Finlayson, an internationally renown wetland ecologist, joined the Institute as its Director at the end of 2007, he brought with him a wealth of experience and linkages to international organisations and wetland research institutes, such as the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands and the International Water Management Institute.

Professor Finlayson has been a member of the Scientific and Technical Review Panel (STRP) of Ramsar since the early 1990s and is an Invited Expert on climate change and wetlands. As the current Ramsar Chair for the Wise Use of Wetlands, UNESCO-IHE Institute for Water Education, The Netherlands, Professor Finlayson is often called upon by international and national governments for his expertise in wetland management.  Since Professor Finlayson's arrival, the Institute has raised its profile in wetland research and now has a group of researchers, including a number of post-graduate students and Institute adjuncts, involved in various wetland-related research projects in Australia and overseas.

Past projects undertaken by researchers in this group include projects on the impacts of climate change and sea level rise on wetlands including coastal wetlands in China and high altitude wetlands in the Himalayas; climate change adaptation; wetlands on farms; impacts of dams on wetlands; assessment of a river and wetland health plan; waterbirds in wetlands; sustainable management of inland wetland ecosystems in southern Africa; and Ramsar site management planning guidelines.

Current and recent research projects include the ecological responses of aquatic vegetation to water regimes and water quality of inland ephemeral lakes; assessing the sustainability of tourism in wetlands; exploring community perceptions about wetland health; frog community responses to environmental change; implications of urban flooding; optimising water management; peatland vegetation communities; a wetlands encyclopedia; an analysis of Ramsar site information in the Murray-Darling Basin; adapting to climate uncertainties in Chilika Lagoon, India; looking at the linkages between water, carbon and economics for river health; and an international wetland centres analysis and an Oceanic wetlands horizon scan.

Increasingly the research work undertaken by this group in the future will have a stronger socio-ecological emphasis to consider people as part of the environment. One such project is looking at the complexities and uncertainties in socio-ecological systems based on an example of the Rio Cruces wetland in Chile. Another project under development is examining the Murray-Darling Basin Plan to look at support of dynamic and sustainable socio-environmental systems. A third is looking at the impacts of extreme weather events and implications on human health and well-being.

The group also has linkages with a number of international organisations and institutes including the Institute for Wetland Research-China Academy of Forestry; Hohai University; Wetlands International-South Asia and Nanjing Institute of Geography and Limnology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, UNESCO-IHE Institute for Water Education, International Water Management Institute (IWMI).


Wetland ecosystems (including lakes, rivers, marshes and coastal regions to a depth of six metres at low tide) are estimated to cover more than 1280 million Ha - an area 33% larger than the United States.  These wetlands deliver a wide range of ecosystem services such as food and water supplies, water purification, climate and flood regulation, coastal protection, recreational opportunities and tourism.

However, despite their value, the degradation and loss of wetlands is more rapid than other ecosystems with wetland species - both freshwater and coastal - being lost faster than in any other ecosystem. The global extent of wetlands is now estimated to have declined between 64-71% in the 20th century, and wetland losses and degradation continue worldwide. Adverse changes to wetlands, including coral reefs, are estimated to result in more than US$20 trillion in losses of ecosystem services annually.

The primary indirect drivers of degradation and losses have been population growth and increasing economic development. The direct drivers include infrastructure development, land conversion, water withdrawal, eutrophication and pollution, over-harvesting and over-exploitation, and the introduction of invasive species.

Global climate change is expected to exacerbate the degradation and loss, to increase the incidence of vector-borne and waterborne diseases in many regions and lead to a reduction in the services provided by wetlands. Removing the existing pressures on wetlands and improving their resiliency is the most effective method of coping with the adverse effects of climate change.

Policymakers have sufficient scientific information to understand the urgent need to take appropriate actions to conserve wetlands and their services to people.


Professor Max FinlaysonInteractions between human well-being and wetland health, vulnerability and adaptation of wetlands/rivers to climate change,wetland restoration and construction, wetland ecosystem services 
Dr Mariagrazia Bellio (Adjunct)Wetland ecologist
Dr Julia HowittWater quality and environmental chemistry
Dr Swapan Paul (Adjunct)Wetland ecologist
Dr John RaffertyRole of science education in conservation
Dr Keller KopfAquatic ecology, Fish biology, Conservation and management baselines
Prof Nick Davidson (Adjunct)Wetland research and policy
Mr Peter Waterman (Adjunct)Sustainable management of Australia's water resources
Mr Ashley BlandEnvironmental restoration
Dr Iain Taylor  (Adjunct)Biodiversity in wetlands, top predators predators within the system such as egrets, ibises and shorebirds.
Professor Pierre HorwitzAquatic ecology and management, ecosystem health, water and wetland management
Dr Giri Kattel, Federation University AustraliaClimate change and human disturbances in lakes and reservoirs
Dr Camilla VoteWater and carbon dynamics of managed landscapes (e.g. irrigated agriculture and wetlands).
Mr Ritesh Kumar (Adjunct)Wetland management planning, river basin and coastal zone management
Mr Ajit PattnaikWetland and Forest Conservation

Current Projects

Development of State-wide framework for monitoring long-term responses of wetlands to environmental watering, Robinson, W. (2015-2016) DEWLP, $11,500

Ecological responses of aquatic vegetation to the environmental water regime developed for Lake Brewster. Finlayson, M., Nielsen, D., Clements, A. (2012-2015) Central West LLS, State Water & CSU.  Project details

Ecological Characterisation and Scenario Setting for Lake Cowal. Finlayson, M.,  Xioying Liu, PhD Scholarship (2012-2015) Lake Cowal Foundation $90,000 Project details

Supporting Wetland Centres in Providing Wetland Education and Training Programs- An international analysis. Finlayson, M., Rafferty, J. & Rostron, C. (2015-2016) ILWS, IHE-UNESCO Institute for Water Education and Wetlands Link International

Developing capacity for climate change research - field measurement of greenhouse gas emissions. Finlayson, M., Howitt,J., Condon,J., Doran, G. & Vote,C. (2014) RIBG CSU, $51,180 as part of  Water, carbon & economics: resolving complex linkages in river health. Finlayson, M. (co-chief investigator),(2013-2017) ARC Linkage project led by Southern Cross University.

Current Research Activities

Complexities and uncertainties in socio-ecological systems based on the example of the Rio Cruces wetland in Chile. Finlayson, M., Marin, V.(University of  Chile) & Delgado, L. (University of Chile). (2013-2015) Chilean Conicyt

Oceania Wetlands Horizon Scan. Finlayson. M, Specht,A. (UQ), George,A. (ERISS) & Capon,S. (Griffith Uni.) (2014-2015) Sponsored by the Society of Wetland Scientists Oceania

Supporting dynamic and sustainable socio-environmental systems: Realities, challenges and opportunities with the Murray-Darling Plan. Finlayson, M., Waterman, P. & Bland, A. (2013-on-going)

The Wetlands Book, Finlayson, M. (Editor-in-chief) Davidson, N. (Special advisor).(2011-2015) Springer Reference.

Completed Projects

Frog community responses to environmental change: a case study in the mid Lachlan. Hall, A., & Walcott, A. (PhD student) (2015) Central Tablelands Local Land Services, $7000

Developing an ecological character based management and regulatory framework for Lake Chilika. Finlayson, M. (2015) International Development Research Centre, $11,655

The Book of Knowledge on Water and Climate Change Issues, Finlayson, M. (2015) Danone/Evian, Euro 15,000 (or $22,205 AUD)

Conserving biodiversity, Analysis of Ramsar site information in the Murray-Darling Basin. Bellio, M. & Finlayson, M., (2012-2015) Murray- Darling Basin Futures CRN ($80,000) in kind from CSU Project details

Science Policy Dialogue on Emergency Preparedness and Management of Health Impacts of Extreme Weather Events in the Asia Pacific Region. Finlayson, M. (2015) Asia Pacific Network for Global Change Research (APN)

Strengthening livelihood security and adapting to climate change uncertainties in Chilika Lagoon, India. Bellio. M. & Finlayson, M. (2012-2015) Wetlands International-South Asia (WISA) in partnership with Chilika Development Authority

Adaptation pathways for aquatic plants under climate change: facilitating dispersal and management interventions.  Finlayson, M. Nielsen, D. (2012-2013) Australian Centre for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (ACEAS)

CSIRO Flagship Cluster project "Ecological responses to altered flow regimes. Watts, R., Finlayson, M., Wassens, S., Kopf, R (post-doc). (2010 -2013) Project undertaken in collaboration with CSIRO, Griffith University, UNSW, Monash University, Latrobe University and the Arthur Rylah Institute. CSIRO.

Thresholds and regime shifts-Australian freshwater ecosystems.  Finlayson, M. & Clement,A. (2012-2013) Australian Centre for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (ACEAS)

Vulnerability Assessment of the Impacts of Climate Change and Sea Level Rise on Sydney Olympic Park Wetlands. Finlayson,M., Spiers,A., Paul, S.  Sydney Olympic Park Authority/CSU. (2011) Sydney Olympic Park Authority, $10,000 Project details

Analysis of Ramsar and other related wetlands guidelines. Finlayson., M. (2011) Ramsar Secretariat.

Climate Change Adaptation in the Coorong, Murray Mouth and Lakes Alexandrina and Albert. Finlayson, M., Gross C., (ANU) Pittock, J., (ANU). (2010-2011) NCCARF. In conjunction with ANU. [Summary Sheet PDF]

Focus Farm Wetland Study. Allan, C., Duncan, R., Dehaan, R., Finlayson, M., Morrison, M., Wassens, S., Wilson, A (2010-2011) Murrumbidgee CMA, Caring For Our Country & NSW Government. (This is a joint ILWS and EH Graham Centre project) [Summary Sheet PDF]

Vulnerability assessment to climate change of high altitude wetlands in the Himalayas. Finlayson, M. (2010-11) WWF-International

Jiangsu-Yancheng coastal wetlands complex protection project. Finlayson, M. (2011) Asian Development Bank

Review of Framework for the Assessment of River and Wetland Health Implementation Plan. Finlayson, C.M.  (2009) NSW Department of Environment and Climate Change

Waterbirds of Barren Box Storage and Wetlands. Taylor, I. (2008-2009) Murrumbidgee Irrigation Ltd

Sustainable management of inland wetland ecosystems in southern Africa: inventory and land cover. Finlayson, M., Masiyandima, M., McCartney, M., and Rebelo, L.M., (IWMI) (2008-2009)International Water Management Institute (IWMI) & the Challenge Program for Water and Food [Summary Sheet PDF]

The provision of the Ramsar Site Management Planning Guidelines Module of the 'National Guidelines for Ramsar Wetlands—Implementing the Ramsar Convention in Australia'. Finlayson, M. and Lukacs, G., James Cook University (2008) Department of Environment, Water Heritage and the Arts


Postgrad Research

StudentsResearch Topic
Adrian ClementsEcological responses of aquatic vegetation to the environmental water regime developed for Lake Brewster (This project has received funding from NSW State Water and the Lachlan Catchment Management Authority) Supervisors Prof Max Finlayson, Dr Daryl Nielsen MDFRC
Xioying Liu (Sha Sha)Ecological Characterisation and Scenario Setting for Lake Cowal (This project is funded by the Lake Cowal Foundation.)
Supervisors Prof Max Finlayson, Dr Daryl Nielsen A/prof Robyn Watts & Dr Julia Howitt,
Luisa Perez-MujicaA system dynamics approach to assessing sustainability of tourism in wetlands
Supervisors Prof Max Finlayson, A/Prof Jonathon Howard & Prof Terry Bossomaier
Jess SchoemanOptimising water management in the Anthropocene? A case study of adaptive management in the Lachlan Catchment, inland New South Wales, Australia  Supervisors Dr Catherine Allan and Prof Max Finlayson
Abbie SpiersAn exploration of community perceptions about wetland health in New Zealand
Supervisors Prof Max Finlayson, A/Prof Rosemary Black
Janey AdamsImpacts of ungulate trampling on peatland vegetation communities in the Snowy Mountains. Supervisors Prof Max Finlayson, Dr Daryl Nielsen MDFRC
Paul AmaotengThe changing spatial extent of water bodies and the implication for urban flooding. The case of Kumasi, Ghana. Supervisors Professor Max Finlayson, A/Prof Jonathon Howard & A/Prof Ben Wilson
Amelia WalcottFrog community responses to environmental change: a case study in the mid Lachlan. Supervisors Dr Andrew Hall, Prof Max Finlayson and Dr Skye Wassens

Engagement & Activities


Wetland Education and Training

Prof Max Finlayson attended the 21st meeting of the Wetland Education and Training (WET) Advisory Panel, November 27, at Sydney Olympic Park. Among other items, outlines of future WET Workshops for 2016 were discussed in detail.

Wetlands in Agricultural Landscapes

From October 12 to 16, Prof Finlayson was in the Czech. Republic to attend the Wetlands in Agricultural Landscapes: Present State and Perspectives in Europe conference in the city of Ceske Budejoric. The conference was organised by the Czech Crop Research Institute, the University of South Bohemia and the Ministry of Environment. Prof Finlayson gave a talk on "Issues associated with wetland biodiversity and agriculture globally and the extent of agriculture in Ramsar Wetlands."

Managing Victoria's Biodiversity

From October 8 to 9, Prof Finlayson was in Melbourne to attend the Managing Victoria's Biodiversity Under Climate Change symposium where he gave a presentation on managing riverine wetland systems under climate change. The symposium was organised by the Victorian National Parks Association, the University of Melbourne and the Royal Society of Victoria and sponsored by DELWLP and Parks Victoria. Institute adjunct A/Prof Ian Lunt also attended the symposium and assisted with its communication outputs.

Wetlands in Columbia

From September 26 to October 4, Prof Finlayson was in Cartagena de Indies, in Columbia, in South America, as an invited expert to work on a project run by the Alexander Von Humboldt Institute that is developing a wetland classification for Columbia's wetlands. Prof Finlayson was accompanied by colleague Prof Wolfgang Junk, an expert on South American wetlands. The project is being funded by the Columbian Government.

18th International RiverSymposium

From September 21 to 23, Prof Finlayson attended the 18th International RiverSymposium in Brisbane where he gave a keynote presentation on the "State of global wetlands and implications for Sustainable Development Goals";  ran a one day session on wetland economies; and participated in the symposium's inaugural Emerging Water Professionals Program (EWPP)  along with ILWS PhD student Jess Shoeman.

Artificial wetlands and biodiversity

On September 6 Prof Finlayson also caught up with colleague Rob McInnes, an environmental consultant based in the U.K., to discuss their new book on artificial wetlands and biodiversity, to be published by Springer, that they are trying to complete. As well they discussed a booklet on climate change and water that they are preparing for the French multinational corporation, Danone/Evian. The booklet, in draft form with input from five authors, is looking at the role of water in global change including climate change.

Role of Paleo-ecology

From September 4 to 6 Prof Finlayson visited ILWS adjunct Prof Nick Davidson, who is the former Deputy Secretary General of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, in England to discuss the role of paleo-ecology in determining changes in ecosystems. This discussion has led to a forthcoming paper in a special issue of the journal Marine and Freshwater ResearchRole of Palaeoecology in Describing the Ecological Character of Wetlands. The abstract is downloadable at

Aquatic Biodiversity and Ecosystems

From August 31 to September 3, Professor Finlayson attended the Aquatic Biodiversity and Ecosystems Conference at the University of Liverpool, England. Prof Finlayson, who is the editor the CSIRO Publishing's journal  Marine and Freshwater Research, was funded by CSIRO Publishing to attend the conference to explore publication and project opportunities.

Winton Wetlands Forum

Professor Finlayson, as chair of the Winton Wetlands Environmental Strategic Advisory Panel (ESAP) for the Winton Wetlands Restoration project, attends regular meetings in Benalla. A highlight in 2015 was the inaugural Winton Wetlands Restoration Research Forum, August 20 to 21 which saw a number of eminent scientists come together to focus on the ecological restoration of the wetlands. The 100 year project is the largest of its kind in the Southern hemisphere. Professor Finlayson spoke about managing and restoring wetlands of international importance; introduced a workshop session on future scenarios- ecosystem restoration goals; and summed up at the ideas from speakers and the workshops at the end.

Gippsland Lakes

Professor Finlayson together with Professor Peter Gell from Federation University, Ballarat, and Mr Rob Gell, a consultant visited the Gippsland Lakes in July to meet  with Mr Ross Scott, who has a property on the Banksia Peninsula, and other local residents, to discuss environmental change in the Gippsland Lakes and to plan publications around that issue.

Ramsar Triennial Conference

From June 1-9 Professor Finlayson was in Uruguay, South America, to attend the 12th Triennial Conference for the Ramsar Convention where he assisted with discussions on a draft resolution on peatlands and contributed to sessions on the state of the worlds' wetlands, and agriculture and wetlands.

Water, Carbon & Economies

From April 27 to May 1, Professor Finlayson was in Lismore in line with his involvement role in the ARC Linkage project  Water, Carbon & Economics: Resolving complex linkages for river health. (2013-2017).  Professor Finlayson is a co-investigator in the project which is led by Southern Cross University. While there he assisted Dr Camilla Vote, from CSUs Graham Centre, and Dr Damien Maher from SCU erect a Eddy Flux Tower in a coastal freshwater wetland near Ballina, northern NSW. The Eddy Flux has been recalibrated for deployment with funding from an Internal CSU 's Research & Infrastructure Block Grants (RIBG) and will measure  CO₂  flux over the wetland over the next two years. He was also involved in planning for other activities under the project.

Science Policy Dialogue

Prof Finlayson took part in a Science Policy Dialogue on Emergency Preparedness and Management of Health Impacts of Extreme Weather Events in the Asia Pacific Region from March 23-25, 2015. The dialogue was run  by the International Institute for Global Health, part of the United Nations University in Kuala Lumpur, and is part of a project funded by the Asia Pacific Network for Global Change Research (APN). Max spoke on "Ecosystem impacts of extreme weather events and implications on human health and well-being" and was involved in other discussions during the event.

Visit to Chilika Lagoon

Professor Finlayson was in India March 1-6, to run a workshop at the Chilika Lagoon, to develop an ecological character description in response to Ramsar requirements. A report will be forth-coming  and will contribute to the triennial  Ramsar conference to be held in June this year in Uruguay, South America.


NGO Ramsar Forum

On November 12, Prof Finlayson attended  a NGO Ramsar Forum on wetland issues in Australia at Sydney Olympic Park which was attended by the Ramsar Convention on Wetland's new secretary general Dr Christopher Briggs. He gave a presentation on "Oceania Wetland Futures – strategic foresight for wetland conservation". The presentation can be down-loaded from the following website.

World Parks Congress

Prof Finlayson attended the IUCN's World Parks Congress at Sydney Olympic Park on November 14 and 17 where he participated in two sessions on managing freshwater protected areas in partnership with Dr Jamie Pittock from ANU's Fenner School. Dr Pittock presented a talk on the Climate Change Adaptation Framework developed for a NCARF project by ILWS post-doc Dr Anna Lukasiewicz. Prof Finlayson spoke on freshwater protection in Australia – what we have done, what we haven't done, what's worked and what hasn't.

Wetland scientists' meeting

On Wednesday, October 29 Professor Finlayson attended a Wetlands Strategic Foresight Workshop: 'What's over the horizon for wetlands in Oceania' held at Sydney Olympic Park run by the Society For Wetland Scientists (Oceania) of which he is a past-president.

Joint Aquatic Sciences Meeting

In May 2014, Professor Finlayson presented a paper on changing baselines in wetland systems as part of a special session conducted by the Ramsar section of the Society for Wetland Scientists at the Joint Aquatic Sciences Meeting, in Portland, Oregon, US.

Potential of REDD+

In May 2014, Professor Finlayson attended at a meeting hosted by the Institute for Wetland Research, China Academy of Forestry, in Beijing, China to develop a briefing note on the potential of REDD+ on wetland management globally on behalf of the Ramsar Convention's STRP. (REDD+ stands for the United Nations Collaborative Programme on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries.)

Wetlands under Climate Change

In June 2013, Professor Finlayson gave a keynote talk on "Management and Science Issues for Wetlands under Climate Change" at the Society for Wetland Scientists, Duluth, in the U.S

Australia-China Wetland Network

Professor Finlayson visited Nanjing, China, in March, 2014 to present a paper at the Australia-China Wetland Network Research Partnership symposium on determining baselines in wetlands.  The partnership is mediated by the Federation University of Australia together with the Nanjing Institute of Geography and Limnology,  Chinese Academy of Sciences. Professor Finlayson's involvement builds on his work on the restoration of lakes and wetlands in China.

International Obligations

In April 2013,  there was a two day workshop in Melbourne hosted by the Institute in association  with the National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility and the Society of Wetland Scientists (Oceanic chapter) that discussed what information Australia needs to meet its international obligations for its inland and coastal wetlands covered by the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands.

Detecting Change

In November 2013 the Institute was involved in the Ramsar Workshop: Detecting Change in Ecological Character, held in Queenscliff, Victoria, which brought key palaeoecological researchers together with limnologists and ecologists to explore means of better understanding the nature of change and variability in key Ramsar wetlands across the globe.