This Section of the ECD provides an overview of the site, including a brief description of the site, tenure and adjoining land use, an overview of the wetland types and a review of the site’s Ramsar Nomination Criteria.
2.1Details of the Site- Summary
Summary details of the site for the purposes of the ECD are provided in Table 2-1.
2.2Location and Brief Description
The Kakadu National Park Ramsar site is located approximately 200 kilometres east of Darwin in the Northern Territory. The site extends from the coast in the north to the southern hills and basins 150 kilometres to the south, and stretch 120 kilometres latitudinally to the Arnhem Land sandstone plateau in the east (Director of National Parks 2007). A map showing the boundaries of the National Park and the historic boundaries of the three Stages is presented in Figure 2 -5. It can be seen from the map that the site encompasses marine, estuarine, freshwater and terrestrial areas.
Stages I and II conformed to the Kakadu National Park boundaries. The 1995 addition of the wetland area located within Stage III encompasses the instream waters, waterholes and associated tributaries of the South Alligator River commencing at the western border of Kakadu National Park Stage I (at approximately 12°59’ S, 132°21’ E) following the river corridor southwards to its headwaters (at approximately 13°44’ S, 132°43’ E) and includes the ephemeral wetlands located on the Marrawal Plateau between approximately 13°44’ S, 132°30’ E and 13°48’ S 132°34’ E. The Stage III area also included the upper reaches of the Wildman, Mary, Katherine and West Alligator Rivers. It should be noted that all wetland dependent ecosystems within the Stage III boundary of Kakadu National Park were included in the Stage I and Stage III Ramsar site in 1995. Some of the notable waterbodies in the site are summarised in Table 2-2.
In April 2010, the two Ramsar sites were merged together to form a single Ramsar site, called Kakadu National Park. In addition, the site was extended by approximately 600 000 hectares to include all remaining areas of Stage III. The merger and extension bought the Ramsar boundary in line with the existing boundary of the national park. The Park boundaries are irregular in shape, and for descriptive purposes, the site coordinates provided in Table 2-1 are for an indicative bounding box that encompasses the entire site (as well as adjacent areas not located within the site). For a detailed description of the site boundaries, refer to the various Commonwealth gazette proclamations (Stage I – 1979; Stage II -1984, Stage III - 1987, Kakadu National Park proclamation amendment -2007).
The township of Jabiru is the principal settlement found within the Ramsar site. Additionally, there are several areas within the boundaries of the Ramsar site where commercial development and associated accommodation is available, and Indigenous communities live in several outstations within the National Park (refer below for exclusions).
Table 2 1 Site details and location description for the Kakadu National Park Ramsar site, both historically (pre-merger) and current (merged sites)
The principal Management Plan for the site is the Kakadu National Park Management Plan 2007-2014 (Director of National Parks 2007).
The Ramsar site is located entirely within the boundaries of Kakadu National Park. The Park is managed under a joint management arrangement between the traditional owners and the Australian Government (Director of National Parks), through a Board of Management. The Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 and the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976 provide the key legislative basis for the joint management of the Park.
Figure 2 5 Location of the Kakadu National Park Ramsar site (denoted by red dashed l
The climatic zone within which the site is located is defined as the hot humid summer climatic zone (Stern et al. 2003). Whilst large expanses of the Ramsar site are Eucalypt-dominated woodlands, this ECD focuses specifically on the wetland habitats. The range of the environmental gradients and contiguous, diverse landscapes, have contributed to a variety of wetland habitat types that support high levels of biodiversity.
The Ramsar site is bounded by the following geographic features:
Van Diemen Gulf and the Timor Sea in the north
the East Alligator River and Arnhem Land in the east
Mary River in the west, and
Arnhem Land plateau to the south.
The site incorporates six catchments: Wildman River (most of catchment), West Alligator River (entire area), South Alligator River (entire area), East Alligator River (partial coverage) and the headwaters of Mary River (Mary River catchment) and Katherine River (Daly River catchment). Several drainages occur on Field Island; however, these appear to be mostly tidal drainage channels. Table 2-2 outlines the separation of the catchments between the three Stages.
Five major landscape types contain the diversity of wetland habitat types described in this document:
Stone country – The sandstone escarpment area of Kakadu contains creeks, seeps and pools.
Lowlands – The Eucalypt open woodlands and scrublands of the lowlands contains creeks.
Southern hills and basins – the southern hills and basins contain creeks.
Floodplains – The floodplains contain extensive freshwater wetlands including marshes, creeks and billabongs.
Estuaries and tidal flats – The coastal habitats include intertidal mudflats, mangroves, saltmarsh, sandy shores and estuarine waters.
These landscape types contain a range of wetland ecosystem types that can be categorised into the following groups:
Terrestrial Ecosystems: This includes both wetland areas, as well as extensive woodlands which occur throughout the site.
Floodplain Ecosystems. Specifically, the vast tracts of palustrine wetlands that comprise the seasonally inundated floodplains, and the areas of Melaleuca swamp forest. Floodplain ecosystems support high numbers of flora and fauna populations/species that underlie a diversity of services.
River Channel. River channels and the associated riparian vegetation support a diversity of fauna and flora species including threatened species, endemic species, waterbirds, fish and traditional foods. Furthermore, river channels provide opportunities for recreational/tourism activities.
Springs. A number of groundwater fed springs occur in the site, with particularly notable examples occurring in the stone country and adjacent lowland areas.
Billabongs. Billabongs are a particularly important feature of the floodplains. Specifically, billabongs provide areas of deep water habitat for aquatic flora and fauna, as well as dry season refuge for many of the aquatic fauna species that inhabit the floodplains. These fauna species include a diversity of freshwater fish, a large number of waterbirds, certain threatened species (for example, pig-nosed turtles) and a number of traditional food species (for example, file snakes and freshwater turtles). Furthermore, many traditional dietary staple plant species are associated with billabongs (for example, water lilies). Billabongs such as Yellow Water are also of value due to their tourism and recreational significance.
Coastal/Marine Ecosystems. Specifically, intertidal mudflats, saltmarsh, mangroves and seagrass. Intertidal mudflats are notable as they support large aggregations of shorebirds.
Further discussion on these elements is provided throughout the report.
The Kakadu National Park Ramsar site displays significant cultural characteristics, having been continuously inhabited for at least 50 000 years (Roberts et al. 1993). An ongoing ‘living culture’ is maintained by the Bininj of Kakadu National Park today, with an evident fundamental connection between Bininj and wetlands within the landscape of the Ramsar site.