Great Barrier Reef Foundation funding supports ongoing BBB work

NQ Dry Tropics has secured $5 million to continue to roll out water quality projects in the Bowen, Broken and Bogie (BBB) catchments.  

The funding has been made available through the Water Quality Improvement program funded by the partnership between the Australian Government’s Reef Trust and the Great Barrier Reef Foundation (GBRF).

It will build on and support the existing $15 million Queensland Government investment as part of the Burdekin Major Integrated Project (MIP) known locally as the Landholders Driving Change project.

A suite of on-ground projects will focus on improving water quality in the BBB through catchment restoration and improved land management practices during the next three years. 

In addition, the projects aim to achieve improved land management practices and stewardship, both as a means of achieving the target reductions in pollutant loads, as well as to provide a basis for sustaining these outcomes. 

Prioritisation of the funding by the GBRF across the reef catchments has been informed by a detailed technical assessment to identify how funds can be invested in the most cost-effective way, and consistent with the Reef 2050 Water Quality Improvement Plan.

NQ Dry Tropics will manage the project, and Alluvium and Verterra through their Verterra-Alluvium Landscape Rehabilitation Joint Venture agreement, will provide gully and erosion technical design and services.

The result… after successful remediation of a large-scale gully at Glen Bowen in the BBB

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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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*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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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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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.
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