Learning Hub | Landholders Driving Change

The Mount Pleasant Learning Hub, featuring Mulloon Institute landscape rehdration techniques, has been designed to reinstate the hydrological function of the landscape. Works include five strategically-placed v-notch log and rock sills in the gully, and a “leaky” earth bank to divert water to where it used to flow. The work was completed in 5½ days.

Learning hub to trial new approaches

Biodiversity, productivity, profitability… can they be mutually beneficial?

A DEMONSTRATION site and learning hub at Mt Pleasant Station, Bowen, is trialing how regenerative agriculture practices can restore landscape function in a production grazing landscape.

The design is based on natural sequence farming principles and was designed and supervised by the Mulloon Institute.

NQ Dry Tropics project officer Rod Kerr (pictured) said on-ground works consisted of log sills placed at critical points in the project gully to encourage water to flow out onto the small floodplain areas, restoring the historical landscape function.

“The structures are ‘leaky’, aimed at filling the gully catchment so that the landscape rehydrates,” Mr Kerr said.

“This intervention will be complimented by landscape management practices, including sustainable grazing practices.”

The project has an education ‘learning hub’ component aimed at building capacity and improving community engagement.

It’s being driven by Mt Pleasant owners Jamie Gordon and Garlone Moulin.

“This is the exciting part of the project because it is sharing and engaging with the project’s community of interest which stretches well beyond those of us directly involved in the project,” Ms Moulin said.

“It includes the broader rural community, research and education institutions, government agencies and whoever else wants to come and observe and study the project and results.”

James Cook University is conducting biodiversity surveys to determine if the designed works can improve water quality and increase biodiversity values at the project site.

This information will also help decide how best to manage biodiversity in a grazing system.

The Mt Pleasant demonstration site and learning hub is an initiative of NQ Dry Tropics’ Landholders Driving Change (LDC) ‘Exploring New Incentives’ program.

LDC is a Burdekin Major Integrated project funded by the Queensland Government through the Queensland Reef Water Qualtiy Program.

A field day is scheduled at Mt Pleasant for 28 November from 10am to 3.30pm.

Mount Pleasant grazier Garlone Mouline talks about biodiversity during a field trip to the site of the Mt Pleasant Learning Hub.

NQ Dry Tropics Project Officer Rod Kerr.

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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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