Monitoring group | Landholders Driving Change

Data dinner date for BBB Water Quality Monitoring group

  • Thursday, 6 June
  • Pit Pony Tavern
  • Starts 5.30pm, invitation only event

THE Centre for Tropical Water and Aquatic Ecosystem Research (TropWATER) trained local landholders on how to collect and store water samples in September.  Since then, they have successfully collected water samples on nine properties selected in the Bowen, Broken, Bogie (BBB) catchment area.

When ex-Cyclone Penny made its way across part of the region in early January, four properties captured water samples at monitoring sites as the flow started, again at its peak, and, as water levels fell.

Between members of the monitoring group and the material collected from automated sampling sites, a total of 106 water samples were taken.

Details of the date, time and water level in the stream were recorded on field sheets and the samples stored in fridges and freezers until they are collected and analysed in the lab.

Scientists Steve Lewis and Zoe Bainbridge from TropWATER will share what they learned from the data gleaned from the samples collected by landholders at a dinner event that will be held in Collinsville this month.  

Each landholder will be given the opportunity to discuss their individual results in detail with the scientists.  

The samples taken by automatic samplers is being analysed by the CSIRO and that data will be delivered to landholders in the new new financial year.

The Community Water Quality Monitoring Group data is collated by the NQ Dry Tropics Paddock to Reef coordinator to help strengthen the Queensland Government modelling for the program. 

With substantial investment and action underway to improve land practices, water quality and reef health, the Paddock to Reef program tracks the work of many stakeholders by monitoring progress towards ambitious reef targets.  

One of the key strengths of the local monitoring group is that by taking water samples themselves, landholders can learn from that water quality information and take the information back to the BBB grazing community and collectively, work out ways to improve local water quality.

Not only can local knowledge be put to good use, community-based monitoring broadens traditional scientific approaches and enhances social capital by strengthening the bonds within the community and with government.

This is why it’s important that scientists are involved with the LDC project, linking science with landholders in a way that enables research to be adapted and packaged in a more meaningful way for all Great Barrier Reef stakeholders.

It ensures landholders’ decisions and actions about land management practices are based on best available knowledge.  It also opens the way to landholders’ knowledge and innovation complementing the formal science.

What is Paddock to Reef?

The Paddock to Reef Integrated Monitoring, Modelling and Reporting Program (Paddock to Reef program) is a collaborative program designed to collect and integrate data on agricultural management, catchment indicators and loads, and the health of the Great Barrier Reef.

Data is collected and reported across six reef regions and results are then published in a report card.

This program measures progress against the water quality targets and actions under the Reef 2050 Water Quality Improvement Plan.

Jointly funded by the Australian and Queensland governments, the Paddock to Reef Program also involves collaboration with industry bodies, regional natural resource management groups, landholders and research organisations.

TropWATER scientists Steve Lewis, left, and Zoe Bainbridge, right, training Natalie and Mick Comerford, of Exmoor Station.

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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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