The Darling catchment supports an extensive network of floodplains, creeks and wetlands, some of which are internationally significant under the RAMSAR agreement.
Due to the unpredictable nature of rainfall over the Darling catchment, the vast majority of these wetlands are ephemeral. When waterways flood, these areas become highly productive systems and provide key habitat for many species of fish, amphibians and water birds.
Wetlands along the Darling River are highly diverse and include freshwater lakes, saline lakes, cane grass or lignum swamps, depressions, billabongs and floodplains etc.
The differing water regimes dictate the vegetation communities are associated with the wetland. For example, in the higher and drier areas of the floodplain chenopod shrubs with Black Box trees dominate the landscape. In more frequently-flooded or low-lying areas, the vegetation tends to be dominated by lignum or canegrass swamps, River Red gums and billabongs with an array of aquatic plants.
The role of wetlands is also highly variable. However, in general, wetlands provide important drought refuge during drier times, whilst in floods, the same areas turn into key spawning and feeding sites for various native fish species, and rookeries for waterbirds.
Apart from supporting the biodiversity, Darling River wetlands have been valued for flood mitigation, water storage, recreation, agriculture and scientific research.