3Critical Components, Processes and Services/Benefits
This Section outlines the critical components, processes and services/benefits that make up the ecological character of the Kakadu National Park Ramsar site.
The method employed to identify critical components, processes and services/benefits is presented in Appendix B. Following the method within the National Framework (2008), the assignment of a given wetland component, process or service/benefit as critical was guided by the following considerations:
the component, process or service/benefit is an important determinant of the uniqueness of the site, or is widely accepted as representing a particularly outstanding example of an environmental value supported by the site,
the component, process or service/benefit is important for supporting one or more of the Ramsar Nomination Criteria under which the site was listed, and
a change to the component, process or service/benefit would result in a fundamental change in ecological character of the site.
Additionally, a second tier of ‘supporting’ components, processes and services/benefits have been identified. These ‘supporting’ components, processes and services/benefits, while important to wetland functioning, were in isolation were not considered to directly address the criteria listed above (see Appendix B).
For each of the critical components, processes and services/benefits (C, P, S/B), a brief description is provided for (i) the rationale for inclusion as a critical; (ii) a description of the element and (iii) a description of patterns in variability over time. It should be noted that in nearly all cases, there was no actual baseline data-set describing the wetland indicator before or at the time of declaration of the sites (Stage I = 1980; Stage II = 1989; Stage III = 1995). Therefore, in the following sections, both pre-listing and post-listing data have been used to describe patterns in variability in space or over time. The specific years in which the data was collected is noted in the following sections, together with a description of whether the numerical values are likely to representative of conditions at the time of listing.
As discussed above, in assessing whether a particular component, process or service/benefit (C, P, S/B) is critical, there is a need to consider (among other factors) any elements that have been identified as having particularly outstanding environmental values. Environmental values may be documented in nomination criteria for the declaration of Ramsar or national park sites. The ‘Commission of Inquiry in respect of all environmental aspects for and in relation to the development by the Australian Atomic Energy Commission in association with Ranger Uranium Mines Pty Ltd or uranium deposits in the Northern Territory’ prepared by Fox et al. (1977) included an extensive review of Kakadu National Park’s natural and cultural values. The Fox report was crucial to supporting the gazettal of Kakadu as a National Park and listing under the World Heritage Convention and Ramsar Convention shortly thereafter. Therefore, the Fox et al. (1977) report was used as a basis for identifying critical components, process and services/benefits that are important with respect to determining the site’s unique character with respect to the Framework (as per second bullet point above).
In particular, the critical components and services/benefits nominated by this ECD were selected so as to strongly correlate with the ‘qualities of the area favouring establishment of a national park’ as listed in Fox et al. (1977) as follows:
The region has a wide variety of landscape, vegetation and wildlife types which are not to be found elsewhere on the continent.
The important land type features which are well represented in the Alligator Rivers Region are the Arnhem Land plateau, the escarpment and outliers, the floodplains, the permanent lagoons and swamps and the major tidal river systems.
Biological features that are of importance are:
A wide range of aquatic and terrestrial vegetation types.
An abundance and considerable diversity of plant and animals species including birds and fishes.
The occurrence of relic communities and species such as rainforests and semi-deciduous forests, some birds, insects, fishes and one species of turtle.
The occurrence of rare species well represented in the region and some endemic races and perhaps species and certainly many new records of species.
Attractive scenic features including notably, vegetation communities associated with various landscape features and the concentration of aquatic birds that occur in the swamp lands during the dry season.
The region has an abundance of Aboriginal relics and features especially Aboriginal art of which there is no equivalent elsewhere in Australia.
It provides scope for scientific study in many disciplines including geology, geomorphology, botany, zoology, ecology, limnology, archaeology and Aboriginal culture.
It presents a variety of opportunities for organised and unorganised recreational and educational activities such as sightseeing and lecture tours, bird and animal watching, natural history study, swimming, bush walking, photography, and wilderness exploration for those experienced and qualified in this kind of activity in such a region and climate.
The foregoing features exist in a close to natural state, in a very diversified but relatively compact region.
Although individual sites may have limited capacity at any one time, a representative national park in the regional could collectively serve a large number of visitors with varying interests providing it was comprehensively organised and specifically managed for the purpose.