Australian Wetlands Database

Ramsar wetlands

   or go to Advanced search or A-Z Ramsar site list

NSW Central Murray Forests


Key facts and figures:

Date of listing:

20 May 2003

Riverine forest in the Millewa State Forest,  Photo: D. Eastburn

Australian Ramsar site number:



1, 2, 4, 8


New South Wales


83,992 hectares

Drainage Division or IMCRA  region:


Wetland type: 

  • 9 - Canals and drainage channels, ditches
  • 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 New South Wales (NSW) Central Murray Forests Ramsar site is located on the floodplain of the Murray River in south-central NSW, Australia. It comprises three geographically discrete but interrelated units: Murray Valley National Park and Murray Valley Regional Park (formally the Millewa Forest), Werai Forests, and Koondrook -Perricoota Forests.

It is dominated by River Red Gum forest and woodland, wet grasslands and marshes as well as having significant areas of box woodland and sandhill communities. The site includes high quality areas of riparian herblands, riverine forest and woodland, and plains woodland. Plains woodland, whilst not part of the floodplain, is important in providing refuge areas for terrestrial fauna during flood events.

River regulation and timber harvesting have played a significant role in determining the ecological character of the NSW Central Murray Forests. A complex system of regulatory structures, management plans and water allocation mechanisms aim to balance the ecological needs of the forests with other demands for water.

Threatened species include the Trout Cod, Murray Hardyhead, Murray Cod, Australian Bittern, Australian Painted Snipe, Superb Parrot, and Swamp Wallaby Grass.

The site has had, and still has, spiritual, cultural, environmental and economic value for several Indigenous communities. Archaeological signs of Indigenous occupation include scarred trees, burials, shell middens and oven mounds.

Places of historical significance that illustrate the phases of pastoral settlement, timber getting and river navigation are also located within the site. The site is also a major part of the social and economic profiles of local townships. The site is currently used for timber harvesting, apiculture, fishing, bird watching and scientific study.

Justification of the listing criteria:

The NSW Central Murray Forests Ramsar site meets four of the nine criteria:

Criterion 1: The Ramsar site is the largest complex of tree-dominated floodplain wetlands in southern Australia and Australia's largest parcel of River Red Gum Forests. The Ramsar site retains elements of trees aged greater than 200 years and areas which are structurally equivalent to undisturbed forest even though the area has been harvested for timber for 150 years.

Criterion 2: At least 8 threatened species of birds, fish and grass have been identified as threatened in the Ramsar site which contribute to the site meeting this criterion. Unbroken riparian corridors provide a large expanse of habitat for these species. Small stands of the critically endangered "White Box-Yellow Box-Blakely's Red Gum Grassy Woodland and Derived Native Grassland" (Box-gum Woodland) have also been recorded at the site.

Criterion 4: The site provides refuge for fauna during environmentally stressful periods such as droughts and is a source of species that can utilise less productive areas during favourable conditions.

The site provides a habitat network for 11 species listed in migratory bird agreements between Australia and Japan (JAMBA), Republic of Korea (ROKAMBA), and China (CAMBA). Recent managed environmental flows have resulted in successful waterbird breeding events as well as providing floodplain inundation for successful fish spawning and feeding processes.

Criterion 8: The site provides migratory routes between habitats in the Murray River, anabranches and floodplains. Native fish move into off-stream areas on rising flows, and make refuge movements into deeper waters during low flow periods. Many species spawn on the floodplains.

River Red Gum Forests make a significant contribution to in-stream nutrient accumulation and productivity through litterfall and provide important shelter in the form of coarse woody debris and shaded water.

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.