Australian Wetlands Database

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The Macquarie Marshes


Key facts and figures:

Date of listing:

01 August 1986

The Macquarie Marshes during a flooding event,  Photo: D. Eastburn

Australian Ramsar site number:



1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 8


New South Wales


19,850 hectares

Drainage Division or IMCRA  region:


Wetland type: 

  • N - Seasonal/intermittent/irregular rivers/streams/creeks
  • Ts - Seasonal/intermittent freshwater marshes/pools on inorganic soils; includes sloughs, potholes, seasonally flooded meadows, sedge marshes
  • W - Shrub-dominated wetlands; shrub swamps, shrub-dominated freshwater marshes, shrub carr, alder thicket on inorganic soils
  • Xf - Freshwater, tree-dominated wetlands; includes freshwater swamp forests, seasonally flooded forests, wooded swamps on inorganic soils

Key features of the site:

The Macquarie Marshes Ramsar site is located in central northern New South Wales, approximately 100 kilometres north of the town of Warren. The Ramsar site is comprised of the Macquarie Marshes Nature Reserve, the privately owned Wilgara wetland and the privately owned U-Block.

Comprising swamps, lagoons, channels and floodplain, the area obtains water from flooding of the lower Macquarie River and its streams. Floods can occur at any time of the year and are highly variable in size and duration. Most of the wetland is semi-permanent or ephemeral, depending on the distance from the main streams and channels.

The Macquarie Marshes contain a wide range of vegetation types, determined by the frequency and duration of flooding. These include River Red Gum woodland, Water Couch grasslands, extensive beds of Common Reed, Coolibah, Black Box, Lignum, reed swamp, Cumbungi and River Cooba.

The range of vegetation found throughout the wetlands provides habitat for many species of waterbird, as well as a diverse array of other wildlife including 233 bird species, 29 species of native mammal, 15 frog species, 60 reptile species and 11 native fish species.

Aboriginal cultural values relate to the deep history of Aboriginal interaction with the wetlands and the values, interests and aspirations of contemporary Aboriginal communities with custodial relationships to the wetlands. Aboriginal cultural values relate to specific places, specific plants and animals, and also the wetlands landscape as a whole.

Justification of the listing criteria:

The Macquarie Marshes Ramsar site meets six of the nine criteria:

Criterion 1: The greater Macquarie Marshes are one of the largest freshwater wetlands in the Murray-Darling Basin biogeographic region. They are a representative example of an inland floodplain wetland relying on water from a higher rainfall upper catchment and having extensive and changeable wetlands in their semi arid lowland reaches. They are unique in terms of their size and their diversity of wetland types, and the extent of particular wetland communities.

Criterion 2: The Ramsar site supports permanent populations of five nationally threatened species including Silver perch, Murray cod, Australasian bittern and the Australian painted snipe. It also supports the nationally endangered Coolibah blackbox woodland of the Darling Riverine Plains and Brigalow Belt South bioregions.

Criterion 3: The Macquarie Marshes support one of only three extensive river red gum (Eucalyptus camaldulensis) woodlands (approx 6,000 ha) in the Murray-Darling Basin. The woodlands in the Macquarie Marshes Ramsar site provide nesting sites and habitat for both waterbirds and woodland birds. The Macquarie Marshes is also one of only two sites in the Murray-Darling Basin supporting extensive common reed (Phragmites australis) reed beds. These wetland vegetation communities provide habitat for 77 waterbird species and 15 frog species.

Criterion 4: The Ramsar site provides highly significant habitat for colonial-nesting waterbirds. The Marshes are one of the few remaining sites in Australia supporting large breeding colonies of Straw-necked Ibis, and one of only a few sites in NSW where Magpie Geese breed. In a catchment that has been modified by agricultural activities, these remaining wetlands have become a regionally important refuge for wildlife, and an important drought refuge during periods when many other inland wetlands have dried out.

Criterion 5: During periods of high inflow the Macquarie Marshes Ramsar site regularly supports 20,000 or more waterbirds.

Criterion 8: Due to the location of the Macquarie Marshes at the lower end of the Macquarie catchment, its fish communities are a blend of those found in adjacent main channel habitats upstream and downstream, but also in adjacent systems. During high flows, fish are likely to move into the Marshes from these areas. The Macquarie Marshes support a significant life history stage with native fish such as silver perch and golden perch moving out of the main channel habitats into the floodplain to breed and spawn with the onset of high flows.

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.