Australian Wetlands Database

Ramsar wetlands

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Barmah Forest

Overview

Key facts and figures:

Date of listing:

15 December 1982

The majority of Barmah Forest functions as a single floodplain wetland system dependent on regular river flooding (2006), Photo: John Baker

Australian Ramsar site number:

14

Criteria: 

1, 2, 3, 4, 8

State/Territory:

Victoria

Area:

28,515 hectares

Drainage Division or IMCRA  region:

Murray-Darling

Wetland type: 

  • M - Permanent rivers/streams/creeks; includes waterfalls
  • N - Seasonal/intermittent/irregular rivers/streams/creeks
  • P - Seasonal/intermittent freshwater lakes (over 8 ha); includes floodplain lakes
  • Ts - Seasonal/intermittent freshwater marshes/pools on inorganic soils; includes sloughs, potholes, seasonally flooded meadows, sedge marshes
  • Xf - Freshwater, tree-dominated wetlands; includes freshwater swamp forests, seasonally flooded forests, wooded swamps on inorganic soils

Key features of the site:

The Barmah Forest Ramsar site is located on the Murray River floodplain in north Victoria. It is predominantly river red gum (Eucalyptus camaldulensis) forest and floodplain marshes. Along with the adjoining Millewa Forests in New South Wales, it forms the largest stand of river red gums in Australia. It is also an Icon Site in The Living Murray program. It 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.

Barmah Forest provide services such as sheltering and nesting habitat for a range of species including bats, parrots, possums, snakes frogs, turtles and waterbirds. It supports over 550 flora species and 270 fauna species, including at least seven threatened wetland-dependent species. The site is bioregionally significant with respect to moira grass (Pseudoraphis spinescens), containing the most extensive swards of this species in the Murray-Darling Basin. Barmah Forest periodically supports thousands of colonial nesting waterbirds and is considered to be a drought refuge for waterbirds and native fish. The site also provides migratory routes between habitats in the Murray River, anabranches and floodplains.

The Ramsar wetland contains many sites of cultural significance to Indigenous people. The Yorta Yorta people have a long association with the site. Occupation sites, burial grounds, mounds, middens, scarred trees and stone artefacts can be found at many hundreds of sites within the park. Barmah Forest is also on the Register of the National Estate in recognition of its importance as part of the country's heritage.

Contemporary social values are associated with recreation, ecotourism, education, research and environmental management. Economic values include recreation and tourism, stock grazing, and firewood collection.

Justification of the listing criteria:

The Barmah Forest Ramsar site meets five of the nine criteria:

Criterion 1: Barmah Forest is part of the largest complex of tree-dominated floodplain wetlands in southern Australia. Barmah Forest, together with Millewa Forests (on the New South Wales side of the Murray River) is nationally the largest continuous stand of river red gum forest. The size and intact nature of this forested floodplain makes it clearly one of the best representatives of the wetland type Xf (freshwater tree-dominated wetlands) in the bioregion. In addition, the site forms an extensive area of intact floodplain and is one of the few such areas with native vegetation in the bioregion.

Criterion 2: Barmah Forest is a significant site in terms of supporting at least seven nationally and/or internationally listed threatened wetland dependent species. These include the Australasian bittern (Botaurus poiciloptilus), superb parrot (Polytelis swainsonii), Mueller daisy (Brachyscome muelleroides), swamp wallaby grass (Amphibromus fluitans), silver perch (Bidyanus bidyanus), Murray cod (Maccullochella peelii) and trout cod (Maccullochella macquariensis).

Criterion 3: Barmah Forest supports at least 553 native species of flora and 273 species of fauna, which is considerably more than some comparable sites in the bioregion. In addition, the site is bioregionally significant with respect to moira grass (Pseudoraphis spinescens), containing the most extensive expanses (swards) of the species in the Murray-Darling Basin.

Criterion 4: The Barmah Forest Ramsar site supports the breeding of waterbirds, frogs, native fish and turtles during times of inundation. The site periodically supports thousands of colonial nesting waterbirds and is considered a drought refuge for waterbirds and native fish.

Criterion 8: The site provides migratory routes between habitat in the Murray River, anabranches and floodplains and is considered important for recruitment of native fish. Fish in the Murray River main channel utilise anabranch and flood runner channels when they are available, moving into off-stream areas on rising flows and taking refuge in deeper waters during low flow periods. Many fish species spawn on the floodplains.

Please see the More Information page for additional information on this Ramsar site and access to the Ramsar Information sheets and other associated site documents.