Paroo River Wetlands Ramsar site
The Paroo River Wetlands are located on the Paroo River in far western NSW. The Paroo is considered to be the last free-flowing river in the Murray–Darling Basin. The Ramsar site consists of Nocoleche Nature Reserve (71,133 hectares) near Wanaaring and the Peery Lake section of Paroo–Darling National Park (67,171 hectares) near White Cliffs. The site includes large overflow lakes, tree-lined creeks and waterholes, lignum and canegrass swamps, and artesian mound springs.
Paroo River Wetlands Ramsar site map
Why was this wetland listed as a Ramsar site?
The Paroo River Wetlands were listed under the Ramsar Convention in 2007 because they meet the following Ramsar nomination criteria:
Criterion 1 - Representative or unique wetlands
The Paroo River is a unique example of a near natural, arid inland wetland system in the Murray–Darling Basin. It maintains a natural pattern of water flow as there are no major diversions, dams or weirs. It also has two distinct sets of artesian mound springs, which are characterised by either deposits of sediment and salt or depressions, and are some of the rarest landforms in Australia.
Criterion 2 - Threatened species or ecological communities
Several threatened plants have been identified in the Paroo River wetlands, including the salt pipewort (Eriocaulon carsonii), listed as endangered under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) and considered the rarest vascular plant in NSW. The vegetation adapted to the mound springs is also listed as a threatened ecological community under the EPBC Act.
Criterion 3 - Populations of plants and/or animals important for maintaining biodiversity of a particular bioregion
The Paroo River wetlands have been recognised as a significant refuge for biological diversity as they contain unique genetic, species and ecosystem diversity. There are newly identified plant and crustacean species, and a separate breeding population of golden perch (Macquaria ambigua). The high biodiversity of bird populations is also well known, with the wetlands of the Paroo and Warrego rivers being one of the most important areas for waterbirds in the Murray–Darling Basin.
The wetlands within Nocoleche Nature Reserve support one of the largest stands of yapunyah (Eucalyptus ochrophloia), a medium-sized floodplain tree restricted to the Paroo region in NSW. It has a high tolerance for drought and extremes of temperature.
Criterion 4 - Supports species at a critical stage of their life cycle or provides refuge in adverse conditions
The Paroo River Wetlands constitute a key drought refuge in arid NSW and play an important role in relation to waterbird breeding. Eleven species of waterbirds have been recorded breeding at Peery Lake and 38 species at Nocoleche Nature Reserve. The maintenance of species diversity relies on the assortment of habitats provided along the Paroo, including pools, floodplains, swamps and marshes, and semi-permanent lakes.
Criterion 5 - Supports 20,000 or more waterbirds
The wetlands of the Paroo River have been identified as being of outstanding importance for waterbirds, regularly supporting more than 20,000 waterbirds. The highest numbers were in 1993 when 35,900 waterbirds were recorded at Peery Lake and 28,000 waterbirds at Poloko Lake.
Criterion 7 - Supports a significant proportion of indigenous fish species or families representative of wetland benefits or values
The Paroo River Wetlands support one of the healthiest native fish communities in the Murray–Darling Basin. Recent research has found the population of golden perch (Macquaria ambigua) is genetically distinct and effectively a separate breeding population from golden perch elsewhere in the basin.
The key document for Paroo River Wetlands 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 framework for describing ecological character in detail. The ecological character description for Paroo River Wetlands Ramsar site (10213parooriverecd.pdf, 1.15MB) provides a comprehensive description of the site’s critical values (components, processes and services) for the time of listing.
A plan of management (PDF) was prepared for Nocoleche Nature Reserve in 2000. Peery Lake is managed as part of Paroo–Darling National Park, for which a plan of management (PDF) was prepared in 2012.
The Paakantji and Budjiti people are the traditional owners of the Paroo. Nocoleche has significance for both groups for trade, as a living place, workplace and for food, water and stories. Peery Lake is significant to the Paakantji people. For the Paakantji and Budjiti, the Paroo country has natural, cultural and spiritual significance. The river is ‘the lifeblood of the community’. The Paakantji and Budjiti people were involved in the Ramsar site listing and continue to be consulted on the management of the reserves.
The plans of management for Nocoleche Nature Reserve and Paroo–Darling National Park address threats to the Ramsar site's values, which include introduced plants and animals, particularly pigs and goats which have impacts on the mound springs vegetation, climate change and visitor impacts.
The Ramsar Managers Network provides a forum for Ramsar site managers in NSW.
Page last updated: 20 February 2013