MERI | Landholders Driving Change

MIPs being evaluated

LANDHOLDERS Driving Change is one of two Major Integrated Projects (MIPs) recommended by the Great Barrier Reef Water Science Taskforce.

The other MIP aims to reduce nutrient and pesticide runoff from cane and banana farms in the Wet Tropics region.  

The Queensland Government has committed a total of $33 million to fund both MIPs, which aim to concentrate efforts at a catchment scale, and evaluate how effective they are.

Why Monitoring, Evaluation, Reporting and Improvement (MERI) is important to the LDC

 

MONITORING and evaluation of the LDC project is a process of zooming in and zooming out across a number of scales.

We zoom in on some of our projects at the paddock scale to understand the on-ground results from certain activities. This is important to evaluate the effectiveness of actions being carried out, and to provide feedback to stakeholders who have been a part of the activity.

When we zoom out a bit, we are looking for trends across sub catchments, soil types and on-ground or project activity types. This level of monitoring contributes to shared learnings and adaptive management.

If we zoom out even further, we get a bigger picture of the BBB catchment and the LDC project as a whole, the impact being made, the modelled projections for water quality entering the Great Barrier Reef and where areas of success can be transferred.    

What data is being captured and why?

Most of the data we capture as part of the LDC project can be broadly grouped into:

  • Biophysical
  • Social;  and
  • Economic

Biophysical is pretty much anything to do with the environment around us, ranging from microscopical data such as the dissolved inorganic nutrients and suspended sediment concentrations in a water sample, all the way to ground cover trends picked up by satellite imagery.

The social data we capture is about how people respond to what we are doing; it can range from participant satisfaction at our events (yes those annoying feedback forms are because of me) as well as broader data such as the community trends in attending training/workshops/field days, implementing property improvements and levels of stewardship.  

The economic data is about the cost effectiveness of achieving outcomes such as social and biophysical improvements.

This can include assisting landholders compare the costs and returns on investment between alternative property improvement options or it could be applying different remediation designs to gullies.

Importantly, a really unique part of our LDC project is the need to test and trial a range of approaches to learn about the cost effectiveness of different approaches.

It is important that M and E data received by the LDC project undergoes a feedback cycle and is provided back to those who participate in collecting and providing the information.

In line with NQ Dry Tropics privacy policy all landholder information that we obtain is kept confidential.

Any results shared beyond the property owners and managers is made anonymous.

This includes results that go to Paddock to Reef (P2R) to monitor, model and report against the Reef 2050 Water Quality Improvement Plan.

What it means for telling the 2020 narrative?

At the end of the LDC project, we get the exciting role of compiling a 2020 narrative.

The depth and breadth of monitored data along the way allows us to tell a full and compelling story about the level of success and learnings.

As a major integrated project we cannot monitor everything alone. Just as all stakeholders played an integral role and participated in the design of this project, all stakeholders also play a critical role in the monitoring process.

Landholders play an important role when they agree to collect or share data with project partners to improve learnings; industry plays an important role by building capacity, extending the reach and adding crucial skills and knowledge to the catchment; while science takes the journey with us to provide integral guidance, analysis, feedback and interpretation of the results.

Together, all stakeholders design, monitor and evaluate the success of the LDC project.

By LDC MERI Officer Barb Colls

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KEQ #1

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.

KEQ #2

*GLMWW = Grazing Land Management Wire and Water

KEQ #3

*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.

KEQ #4

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.

KEQ #5

KEQ #6

KEQ #7
KEQ #8

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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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