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 Kakadu National Park Ramsar site is located approximately 200 kilometres east of Darwin in the Northern Territory. The Kakadu National Park Ramsar site was historically two separate Ramsar sites within Kakadu National Park. These were Kakadu National Park (Stage I including wetland components of Stage III) and Kakadu National Park (Stage II). Kakadu National Park Stage I was originally listed as a Ramsar site in 1980 and expanded in 1995 to include wetland components of Stage III, while Stage II was listed in 1989 as a separate Ramsar site.
Kakadu National Park comprises of sandstone plateau communities, escarpments, extensive seasonal floodplains, estuaries, tidal flats, offshore islands, seasonal freshwater marshes and permanent freshwater pools. The rivers are tidal in their lower reaches and are associated with extensive tidal flats formed from riverborne mud.
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 Kakadu National Park Ramsar site. Kakadu National Park has 11 critical components: mangroves; Melaleuca forests; palustrine wetlands and billabongs; waterfalls, seeps and waterholes; populations of migratory and resident waterbirds; populations of freshwater fish; populations of freshwater and saltwater crocodiles; populations of threatened sharks; yellow chat populations; pig-nosed turtle populations; and locally endemic invertebrate species. It has four critical processes: fluvial hydrology; fire regimes; breeding of waterbirds; and flatback turtle nesting. It also has three critical services: maintenance of global biodiversity; fisheries resource values; and contemporary living culture. The description also identifies limits of acceptable change which describe the range of variation which key aspects of the ecology of the site can vary without representing a change in the ecological character. Limits of acceptable change for Kakadu National Park have been proposed for all critical components, processes and benefits and services based on existing data.
This document also describes the current Ramsar listing criteria met by the site, the key threats and knowledge gaps for Kakadu National Park. Recommended monitoring needs and communication messages are also provided.
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.