Like much of the world, wetlands in Australia face unprecedented challenges due to climate change and other human activities. Invasive species, increase in temperatures, variability in rainfall and water extraction are all negatively affecting wetland health and people’s relationship to the environment.
With the health and expanse of wetlands in decline worldwide, there is an urgent need to improve their management and bolster restoration activities. At a minimum, wetlands deemed of international importance under the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands require baseline assessment of their baseline and ongoing monitoring. Satellite earth observations and drones can be powerful tools for this type of wetlands monitoring; however, they do have limitations when it comes to spatial range and availability over time.
A key way to confront these limitations and help improve the success wetland management and restoration is to bring together a western scientific analysis of changes in wetland water, soil and vegetation, with indigenous long-term knowledge of the landscape that can fill information gaps.
Our current research shows how a spatial imagery visualisation tool that detects long-term (1988 – 2021) changes to wetland coverage, when combined with indigenous knowledge, can improve our understanding of the baseline wetland conditions, how the wetlands have changed over time and provides a means for their ongoing monitoring.
In various wetlands around Australia, we compared the results obtained using a spatial imagery tool with the local observations of Traditional Owners and found that the two forms of information followed similar trends and complemented each other, providing a very valuable monitoring tool to manage the problems wetlands like those on Stradbroke Island are currently facing.