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Wetlands include a wide range of habitats in both freshwater and saltwater environments. Freshwater wetlands can be lakes, rivers, ponds, swamps, bogs, billabongs and marshes. Saltwater wetlands can be estuaries, saltmarshes, mangrove forests, coastal swamps, lakes and lagoons.

Although wetlands are generally defined as areas of land covered in water, wetlands are not always wet! Some wetlands are permanently flooded while others may only experience seasonal flooding. Some wetlands rarely flood but have continually saturated soils while others are completely dry for lengthy periods. So, what do they all have in common?

An area may be classified as a wetland if it has the following characteristics: 

  1. The plants are mostly hydrophytes (plants adapted to growing in water saturated soils). 

  2. The substrate is mostly undrained, hydric soil which has anaerobic or low-oxygen conditions due to water saturation. 

  3. The substrate is covered by water at some point during the year. 

Wetlands are some of the most productive ecosystems on the planet and are an integral part of the natural environment. They prevent erosion, reduce the impacts of flooding, absorb pollutants and improve water quality, and provide vital habitat for plants and animals including those which are not found anywhere else. 

Urban wetlands are located within cities or towns and have the added environmental pressures of urban pollution such as rubbish, sewage, pesticide, oil and chemical run-off and spills. 

The mostly constructed urban wetlands of Centennial Parklands are a series of 10 shallow, purpose-built ponds fed by stormwater. The only exception is Lily Pond, which is fed by a natural underground spring, the Botany Aquifer. The Botany Aquifer is like a sandy sponge which holds water beneath the ground. The aquifer is recharged by rainwater percolating through sand and sandstone strata which act as natural filters to remove solid litter, silt and harmful nutrients. Although constructed, the Parklands ponds system is a modified remnant of the original and much more extensive freshwater wetlands. 

Explore our urban wetlands further: 

A wide range of animal species depend on Centennial Parklands’ wetlands to provide food, shelter, and breeding grounds:  


Macroinvertebrates are tiny animals, mostly insects, that live within water. The abundance and diversity of macroinvertebrates living in the ponds can tell us about water quality. Some species are very tolerant of poor water quality and some are very sensitive to it. Sensitive species often cannot survive in polluted water. Discover some species you might expect to find in the wetlands of Centennial Park below. 

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Wetland plants, or hydrophytes, are often only found in wetland environments as they can survive in saturated soil with their roots under water. Wetland plants can improve water quality by removing sediments, excessive nutrients and pollutants. A variety of wetland plants, like those below, are found in Centennial Parklands’ wetlands and provide food and habitat to wetland animals. 

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Activities - Wetlands 

1. Wetland habitats 

Read the habitat cards (worksheets) and use the flowchart (worksheet) to identify each wetland habitat type. 

2. Wetland food webs 

Use the image galleries above to create inhabitant cards (worksheet) for the plants and animals that live in Centennial Parklands’ wetlands. Use your inhabitant cards to create a food web.  

3. Investigate the Ramsar Convention 

The Convention on Wetlands of International Importance (also known as the Ramsar Convention) is a treaty between nations aimed at conserving natural resources. The Ramsar convention helps to designate wetlands that are important for conserving biological diversity. 

  • Select a country from the Ramsar Convention’s Country Profiles.   
  • Select a wetland of importance within that country.
  • Create a poster or infographic to highlight this wetland of importance.  

4. Wetlands in your world 

  • Locate your school on a map. What is the nearest wetland? What type of wetland is it? Is it urban? 
  • What else is located around this wetland? Are there any natural areas or green spaces? Are there any urban or developed areas? Are there any industrial areas? How might these areas affect the wetlands? 
  • How can you and your school help to maintain a healthy local wetland? Find out more about your local wetland, what is already being done to manage it and what else might be done in the future. 
  • Visit your local wetland! Depending on the type of wetland, you could go dip netting to find out what lives in the water. Use the Wetland Birds app from Birdlife Australia to identify the waterbirds that rely on your local wetland.