Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities
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. 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 Gunbower Forest Ramsar site is one of a series of river red gum forests on the Murray River floodplain in north Victoria. Together with the adjoining Koondrook-Perricoota component of the Central Murray Forests Ramsar site in NSW, Gunbower Forest comprises the second largest river red gum forest in Australia. It is part of the Gunbower-Koondrook-Perricoota Forest Icon Site, one of six icon sites under The Living Murray program established in 2002.
The Ramsar Site is an area of river red gum (Eucalyptus camaldulensis) forest, subject to periodic inundation. The forest features a variety of permanent and temporary wetlands, including lakes, swamps, lagoons and flooded forest. These wetlands provide habitat for a large number of bird species and native fish populations. It was originally nominated as a "Wetland of International Importance" under the Ramsar Convention in 1982.
The ecological character of a wetland is the sum of all the 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 Gunbower 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, the key threats for the Gunbower Forest Ramsar site. Recommended monitoring needs and communication messages are also provided.
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 Gunbower 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.
Further 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 the factsheet and the 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.