About the document
An Ecological Character Description describes the ecological character of a wetland at the time of its listing as a Wetland of International Importance (Ramsar site). The Ecological Character Description is a fundamental management tool for site managers, forming the basis of management planning and action as well as including guidance on site monitoring requirements to detect changes in the ecological character of the site.
The Barmah Forest Ramsar site is located on the Murray River floodplain in north Victoria. It predominantly consists of river red gum forests and floodplain marshes. Together with Millewa Forests (on the New South Wales side of the Murray River), it forms the largest continuous stand of river red gums in Australia. It is also an Icon Site in The Living Murray program. The wetland site features major streams, anabranches, swamps, billabongs and permanent lakes. The majority of the forest functions as a single floodplain system and is dependent on seasonal flooding.
The ecological character of a wetland is the sum of all the critical components, processes and services of that wetland. Ecosystem components are physical, chemical and biological parts of a wetland, from large-scale to very small-scale (e.g. habitat, species and genes). Ecosystem processes are the dynamic forces within an ecosystem. They include all those processes that occur between organisms and within and between populations and communities, including interactions with the non-living environment that result in existing ecosystems and bring about changes in ecosystems over time. Ecosystem services are the benefits that people receive from ecosystems.
This document describes the critical components, processes and services for the Barmah Forest Ramsar site and identifies limits of acceptable change and knowledge gaps in relation to those critical components, processes and services. The Ecological Character Description also describes the relevant Ramsar listing criteria and key threats for the Barmah Forest Ramsar site. Recommended monitoring needs and communication messages are provided.
Note: Ecological Character Descriptions include a description of limits of acceptable change in order to provide a better understanding of the ecological character of the wetland. Limits of acceptable change are defined as the variation that is considered acceptable in a particular component or process of the ecological character of the wetland, without indicating change in ecological character that may lead to a reduction or loss of the criteria for which the site was Ramsar listed.
When a limit of acceptable change is not met or has been exceeded this may require investigation to determine whether there has been a change in ecological character within the meaning of the Ramsar Convention.
At the time this report was prepared, one or more limits of acceptable change had been exceeded for the Barmah Forest Ramsar site. The Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities will undertake a preliminary assessment of potential change in ecological character for this Ramsar site, in consultation with the Victorian Government.
Information on what Ecological Character Descriptions are and how critical components, processes and services are identified is available in the National Framework and Guidance for Describing the Ecological Character of Australian Ramsar Wetlands – Module 2 of the National Guidelines for Ramsar Wetlands – Implementing the Ramsar Convention in Australia.
For more information on identifying and notifying change in ecological character, please refer to
- Notification of change in ecological character fact sheet and
- National Guidance on Notifying Change in Ecological Character of Australian Ramsar Wetlands (Article 3.2).
A factsheet is also available on limits of acceptable change.