NSW Central Murray Forests Ramsar site
NSW Central Murray Forests Ramsar site was listed in 2003. It is located near Deniliquin in south-western NSW and consists of three subsites: Millewa Forests, Werai Forests and Koondrook Forests. All of the forests are dependent on flows in the Murray River. The Ramsar site covers 83,992 hectares.
NSW Central Murray Forests Ramsar site map
Why was this wetland listed as a Ramsar site?
NSW Central Murray Forests were listed under the Ramsar Convention because they meet the following Ramsar nomination criteria:
Criterion 1 - Representative or unique wetlands
Millewa Forests together with Barmah Forest in Victoria are Australia’s largest area of river red gum (Eucalyptus camaldulensis) forest. Although the forests have been harvested for timber for 150 years, Millewa Forests retain trees aged greater than 200 years and areas which are structurally equivalent to undisturbed forest. There are also other wetland types such as floodplain lakes, moira grass plains, meadows and reed swamps.
Criterion 2 - Threatened species or ecological communities
The Ramsar site supports eight threatened species listed at the national or international scale, including the Australasian bittern (Botaurus poiciloptilus), Australian painted snipe (Rostratula australis), superb parrot (Polytelis swainsonii), swamp wallaby grass (Amphibromus fluitans), trout cod (Maccullochella macquariensis), silver perch (Bidyanus bidyanus) and Murray cod (Maccullochella peelii peelii).
Criterion 4 - Supports species at a critical stage of their life cycle or provides refuge in adverse conditions
NSW Central Murray Forests Ramsar site provides habitat for 11 species of migratory birds listed under international agreements and is important for colonial nesting waterbirds, supporting breeding of thousands of birds during times of inundation. It is also important for breeding of native fish and ducks. The permanent rivers and wetlands within the site are recognised as drought refuge for native fauna in this semi-arid region.
Criterion 8 - Food source, nursery or migration path for fish
The Ramsar site provides migratory routes between habitats in the Murray River, anabranches and floodplains. Native fish move into off-stream areas on rising flows, and seek refuge in deeper waters during low flow periods. Many species spawn on the floodplains.
The key document for NSW Central Murray Forests Ramsar site is the Ramsar information sheet. It outlines the criteria met by the site, special features and management practices within the site and its catchment.
The Ramsar Convention requires Contracting Parties to maintain the ecological character of their Ramsar listed wetlands. Australia has developed a detailed framework for describing ecological character. The ecological character description for the NSW Central Murray Forests Ramsar site will provide a comprehensive description of the site’s critical values (components, processes and services) at the time of listing. It is currently being finalised.
NSW Central Murray Forests Ramsar site was being managed by Forests NSW when it was listed in 2003.
The Millewa Forests section of the Ramsar site was gazetted as national park and regional park on 1 July 2010, and is managed to protect its ecological values and provide recreational opportunities. A statement of interim management intent (SIMI) has been prepared to guide management until a plan of management under the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974 is prepared. The SIMI includes actions (also to be included in the subsequent plan) to address threats to the site's ecological values.
The Werai Forests were vested in the Minister for the Environment on 1 July 2010 and will be transferred to traditional owners for conservation purposes. Koondrook Forests are still managed to protect their wetland values and for timber harvesting under Forest NSW’s Ecologically Sustainable Forest Management Plan, and the Ramsar Convention’s ‘wise use’ principles.
The principal threat to the Ramsar site’s values is altered water regimes as a result of water resource development, which have caused a reduction in the frequency and duration of spring wetland inundation in all three forests and an alteration to the seasonality of inundation in Millewa Forests. The Office of Environment and Heritage, through its management of NSW's licensed environmental water, is working with the Commonwealth (including through The Living Murray Program) to improve the water regime in these forests. Other threats include altered fire regimes, introduced species, particularly European carp (Cyprinus carpio) which competes with native fish, and climate change, whose predicted effects will exacerbate the effects of altered water regimes.
The Ramsar Managers Network provides a forum for Ramsar site managers in NSW.
Page last updated: 22 January 2013