Pictured during a scoping field trip are (from left) Scientist Andrew Brooks, Glencore Environmental Officer Adam Heap, Scott Robinson Department of Environment and Heritage Protection and CEO NQ Dry Tropics Dr Scott Crawford

Determining the scope and objectives of the Landholders Driving Change project

THE Burdekin River Basin is ~130,000 km2 and drains into the Great Barrier Reef lagoon south of Townsville.

It has the largest mean annual runoff of any of the GBR catchments at 10,290,000ML, and is the largest contributor of anthropogenic derived fine sediment to the GBR lagoon (Waters et al., 2014; McCloskey et al., 2017a,b).

The Burdekin River and its catchment influences large areas of coastal floodplains and important wetland areas, coral reefs and seagrass beds. Many of these systems are vulnerable to increases in sediment and particulate loads in the environment.

Flood plume studies have found most sediment exported from the Burdekin Basin is deposited close to the river mouth, coastal and inner shelf areas of the GBR, with potential for remobilisation during subsequent wind and tide driven resuspension events (Bainbridge et al., 2016; Lewis et al., 2015).

These resuspension events can result in higher turbidity levels than measured in initial flood plumes. Elevated turbidity reduces light for seagrass and corals.

While coastal seagrass and coral reefs do grow in turbid water conditions at shallow depths, this has contributed to declines in seagrass extent (McKenzie et al., 2016) and reduced coral biodiversity (De’ath and Fabricius, 2010) throughout the GBR.

Within the Burdekin River Basin there are several large catchments, and there are now multiple lines of evidence showing that the BBB catchment, which is downstream of the Burdekin Falls Dam, is the dominant source of sediment and particulate nitrogen to the GBR (Lewis et al., 2015; Bartley et al., 2014), contributing approximately 43% of the regional sediment load.

This catchment has some of the highest sediment concentrations and one of the highest per-hectare sediment loads of any catchment draining to the GBR lagoon (Dougall et al., 2014), and these erosion rates are ~7.5 higher than natural (Bartley et al., 2015).

The dominant erosion process driving this excess sediment delivery is gully erosion (Wilkinson et al. 2015; Hancock et al. 2014), and a large proportion of the sediment is generated from grazing lands. Accordingly, the Burdekin Water Quality Improvement Plan (Burdekin WQIP; NQ Dry Tropics, 2016) identifies the BBB as the highest priority catchment for sediment loss in the Burdekin Basin.

Within the BBB catchment, most of the sediment load is delivered from a relatively small proportion of the area, which has vulnerable soils that are hydrologically well‐connected to the stream network.

These are primarily where subsoil is exposed in scalds, rills and gullies (Wilkinson et al., 2015; Brooks et al., 2016). These features can be identified in the landscape, but the critical gap in our understanding is the effectiveness of erosion remediation options for controlling these sources of sediment at property and sub-catchment scales.

A scoping trip at Havalah Station during the Design Phase of the LDC project

Strathalbyn Station was one of the BBB properties visited during scoping for the Design Phase of the Landholders Driving Change project

Cattle in the BBB

Gullies more likely in dispersive soilsPress Release - May 10, 2017

Gully expert, Associate Professor Andrew Brooks

A LEADING gully expert working on NQ Dry Tropics’ Landholders Driving Change project says that unstable soils in some areas of the Bowen, Broken, Bogie (BBB) catchment are especially prone to erosion.

Gully expert, Griffith University Associate Professor Andrew Brooks, is working alongside graziers, other scientists and technical experts to design land condition and water quality improvement solutions in the BBB catchment near Collinsville, under the Queensland Government-funded project.

Mr Brooks said: “Gullies are a nuisance for landholders; undermining fences, stockyards and roads – and eventually contributing to reduced available productive land. They are also a major source of sediment runoff into local waterways and the Great Barrier Reef.

“Gullies are a natural landscape process that has been accelerated by human activity over the last 100-150 years.  Some soil types are particularly susceptible to erosion, and some of the soil in this region is highly-dispersive and unstable.

“The problem is that it only takes a small disturbance in the protective top soil for water to get in and expose the subsoils, which literally dissolve on contact, ending up with large expanses of gullies. If left untreated, they will continue to erode until there is no material left”, Mr Brooks said.

He explained that landholders can manage many smaller gullies fairly easily using techniques ranging from increasing ground cover and reducing local grazing pressure, to stabilising with hay bales and rock check dams. But once they get too large they become harder, if not impossible for graziers to manage, and require specialist engineering solutions.

“These larger, what we call alluvial gullies are found on maybe less than 0.2 per cent of the total landscape but could be delivering up to 50 per cent or more of the total sediment load in the BBB region. Most of these big gullies first formed more than 100 years ago when grazing first began in the region. They require specialist management, but have to be addressed to achieve the water quality improvements the Landholders Driving Change project is aiming for.

“This project is different and a great model because all stakeholders groups are coming together around the table at the outset to share knowledge and gain a common understanding of the problem.  During this project, we’ll have the chance to better understand the kind of gullies out there, where they are, how best to fix them, and how much that might cost.

“We’ll be trialling a range of methods to tackle all types of gullies – there is no “one size fits all” strategy. I believe no gully is unmanageable as long as we apply the right techniques. As we get better and more efficient we hope to deliver these solutions at reduced costs. As we set out to repair existing gullies it’s crucial that activities such as road building or inappropriate powerline maintenance don’t create new ones”, Mr Brooks said.

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Internet storiesNQ Register; Queensland Country Life

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Policy Engagement

THE Policy Engagement program aims to support BBB landholders to cut through regulatory red tape that may be preventing them from adopting practice changes.

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BBB Grazier Support

More than 90 per cent of land in the BBB is used for grazing. The BBB Grazier Support program aims to provide all local graziers with education, training, technical support and incentives to help them adopt improved land management practices.


MORE than 20 grazing properties across the BBB catchment are taking part in the whoa boy project. LDC hosted landcare specialist and plant operator Darryl Hill to deliver erosion control grader training to landholders and local contractors who are now undertaking erosion control works across the catchment.
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THE Collinsville small vehicle washdown facility was officially opened in October by Cr Peter Ramage, Whitsunday Regional Council (WRC). The facility, in Darby Munro Park in Collinsville, is available for anybody to use and is designed to reduce the spread of weeds such as prickly pear and lantana across primary production land in the BBB catchment.
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GRAZING practice change is central to the Landholders Driving Change (LDC) project because it is the proven most cost-effective way of improving water quality. Graziers can adopt a wide range of activities to help meet water quality targets.
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Exploring New Incentives

LDC works closely with landholders to investigate a range of approaches that reward good practice, and identify which options to pursue in the BBB. These could include market-based approaches such as grants, concessional loans, insurance mechanisms, stewardship payments, stamp duty relaxation, rate rebates, taxes, levies or market premiums. Some practice changes may only require short-term financial assistance, while others may need additional support to help maintain long-term benefits.


EXPLORING New Incentives is an important component of the LDC project, working with landholders to investigate a range of approaches that reward good practice. LDC engaged CSIRO along with James Cook University and Natural Decisions to research and scope potential institutional arrangements that are realistic in the short term to support ongoing improved practice adoption and landscape remediation over the medium to long term. That report and recommendations is now complete.
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Influencing Other Land Managers

MORE than 90 per cent of land in the BBB is used for grazing. The BBB Grazier Support program aims to provide all local graziers with education, training, technical support and incentives to help them adopt improved land management practices.


LAND access laws for government agencies and utility companies who access properties in North Queensland must be strengthened to safeguard farmers’ best interests, graziers say.
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BURDEKIN graziers are adopting management practices for a more sustainable and productive farming future – and the 2016 results prove it. The estimated annual average total suspended sediment lo
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Landscape Remediation

GULLY erosion causes approximately 65 per cent of the fine sediment load that comes from the BBB. The Landscape Remediation program aims to develop fast, effective and economical approaches to gully remediation.


LANDHOLDERS Driving Change is conducting a large-scale gully remediation project on Mt Wickham. LDC staff walked the landscape with local contractors and representatives from ecological engineering firm Verterra, a principal partner on the project, who developed the gully remediation technical design.
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PROBLEM gullies are the focus of the first Landscape Remediation sites in the Landholders Driving Change project throughout the BBB catchment. Landholders could have possible sites assessed as part of the project. BBB landholders also have available a suite of funded on-ground works.
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THANKS to the landholders who nominated potential gully remediation works, all of which will be  will be assessed and prioritised. The aim is to develop fast, effective and economical approaches to gully remediation, drawing upon the knowledge of graziers and technical specialists.
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Q2 - More than 90 per cent of the NQ Dry Tropics NRM region land is used for grazing, about 6 per cent is government-protected areas (National Parks etc), about 1 per cent is forestry, about 1 per cent is used for growing sugar cane and 1 per cent is other primary production land.

Q3 - There were 1.3m cattle in the area as at the 2015-2016 census. Check it out here.

 

 

 

 

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