Walking the landscape… Sam Skeat leads the way on a walk through some of the rehydration features on Flagstone Station.

Focus on landscape function is working at Flagstone

Manager Brett Scott has made a strategic decision to focus on landscape function at Flagstone. 

By introducing landscape rehydration techniques to reinstate hydrological function in areas that are experiencing erosion issues, Brett expects to yield economic and environmental rewards through ecological enhancement and improved productivity.

Through the LDC project, The Mulloon Institute was engaged to design small-scale, low-cost interventions to reduce velocity and flow of water off property. 

The erosion site that is being treated is a historic alluvial fan that has formed off the steep hillside near Flagstone Creek. 

At the top of the main flowline a large active gully has formed, and 30m below the gully head, a smaller alluvial fan is forming. The combined catchment of these two flowlines is 1.6ha.

A gully plug (also known as a check dam) will be constructed to entirely bury the large active gully head. It has been designed to lift water back to the soil surface to increase infiltration while reducing the gradient at the point of erosion.

The construction of two earth walls and the excavation of a pond at the smaller alluvial fan will redirect water and lower the velocity of flow to the gully head. 

This will spread water across the landscape, increase inundation and infiltration across the plain, increase deposition of sediments, and slow subsurface moisture movements.

A field day was held at Flagstone in November to showcase the works in progress. The paddock will be subdivided and a watering point relocated to promote pasture establishment.

The long term benefits of the works includes increased water infiltration, healthier soils, more diverse pastures, increased grazing capacity, reduced erosion, and improved water quality.

Flagstone has been on a transformational journey over the past 18 months. This case study outlines other projects Flagstone has completed with NQ Dry Tropics.

Flagstone Station manager Brett Scott.

Sam Skeat from the Mulloon Institute explains how groundworks will redirect the flow of water to spread it across the landscape and facilitate maximum infiltration.

Smoko… pictured having a break are (from left) graziers Mark and Deb Perkinson, Mark Yensch, Bob Harris and host of the Landscape Rehydration field day at Flagstone Station, Brett Scott.

Mt Pleasant grazier Jamie Gordon (centre) asks a question during the Flagstone Field Day.


Reef regulations - grazing, standard conditions

  1. For land in good or fair condition (more than 50 per cent ground cover at 30 September), continue using measures to maintain land condition.
  2. For land in poor condition (less than 50 per cent ground cover at 30 September), steps must be taken to improve land condition.
  3. For land in degraded condition (less than 20 per cent ground cover at 30 September), steps must be taken to improve land condition OR prevent areas from further degrading or expanding.
  4. Keep records of measures taken and also of agricultural chemicals, fertiliser and mill mud or mill ash applied to land.
KEQ #8

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The LDC project monitors four gully sites (represented in this table) with gold standard equipment and analysis, carried out by CSIRO.

Results have been compiled in a preliminary report from Bartley et al (2020), with the final report expected to be released by the end of 2020. The preliminary report shows all four sites have indicators of improvements, notably the Strathbogie and Mt Wickham sites.

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*The Exploring New Incentives activity area has provided an opportunity for graziers to adopt improved land management practices through a range of activities. For some of these properties, it was the first time they signed contracts for on-ground works.

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Figure 1. Total fine sediment reduction by project type and erosion source. Inset shows the proportion of the total project area for each project type.

These estimates have been calculated using two methods: 

1) The pollutant reduction component of the Alluvium/Great Barrier Reef Foundation (GBRF) investment tool for hillslope and streambank erosion management projects; 

2) The Reef Trust Gully Toolbox method for gully erosion management projects. The LDC Water Quality Report 2020 (Waterhouse et al., 2020) highlights that a number of assumptions underlay these calculations, therefore these figures should be treated as the best available estimate of sediment reductions to date.

Preventing sediment from reaching the Great Barrier Reef

Each wet season sediment is washed into local waterways and out to the Great Barrier Reef (GBR). 

Most sediment is very fine, and can stay suspended for a long time and can travel great distances. Valuable topsoil is lost from production, and increased concentrations on the reef can be harmful to seagrasses and corals. 

Landholders in the BBB have completed 69 on-ground water quality practice changes, and it is estimated that these have contributed a fine sediment reduction of 6,154 tonnes per year from reaching the GBR. 

Of this, approximately half of the sediment savings are attributable to grazing land management changes on hillslopes and streambanks, and the other half as a result of gully remediation treatments across a broad range of scales, as shown in the graphs above. 

The table below also highlights the relatively small area of intervention in the gully management projects compared to the large sediment savings that these can achieve - 60 per cent of the sediment savings over only 4 per cent of the project area.

Table 1. Estimated sediment reductions (tonnes) from projects completed in the LDC Project to date.

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*GLMWW = Grazing Land Management Wire and Water

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