A PhD thesis has documented the status of seagrass and their sediment nutrient across a range of locations and species in the central region of the GBRWHA in the mid 1990s. The data in this thesis represents a baseline for ongoing assessment of status and trend of both the seagrass meadows surveyed and changes in the nutrient environment they inhabit. One key finding is that the status of seagrasses of this region is dependent upon a complex interaction between location, species, season and disturbance regime. In this proposed work, Jane Mellors will produce a series of publications for the international literature that will allow dissemination of her research. Outcomes: An improved understanding of the recent history of seagrasses and nutrients in the central region of the GBRWHA and a baseline data set for ongoing monitoring of changes in water quality and it’s affect on seagrasses.
The land resource surveys project provides co-ordinated information on the nature and condition of soil, vegetation and landscape. Maps, reports and databases provide this information in forms that can be interpreted for agricultural and urban land suitability
The project provides long-term quantitative data on coral reefs spanning much of the Great Barrier Reef (GBR). Each year, information is gathered on corals, algae, reef fishes from 48 reefs and Crown-of-thorns starfish (COTS) are surveyed on about 100 reefs.
The Long-term Monitoring Project is designed to detect changes in reef communities over time at a regional scale. In this context, reefs in a region are those that lie in one of three of three positions across the continental shelf (inshore, mid-shelf, outer shelf) within one band of latitude (a sector).
Surveys by the Long-term Monitoring team involve three tasks; manta tow surveys for crown-of-thorns starfish (COTS) and reef-wide coral cover (broadscale surveys), surveys of sessile benthic organisms using video and visual counts of reef fishes. Broadscale surveys cover reefs in 11 sectors. Reefs in six of the sectors are surveyed intensively. Outcomes: More informed management of issues concerning coral reefs within the GBRMP by documenting the impact of natural disturbances on fish and coral communities.
Detection of unusual trends at reef and/or regional scales, including COT outbreaks and coral bleaching, which may indicate need for response and/or forewarn of important change.
Accumulation of standardised long-term data that can be used in the future to detect large-scale change from chronic stressors including climate change.
River mouth water quality monitoring will assess change over time in concentrations and loads of the major land sourced pollutants that have the potential to adversely affect coral reef and seagrass ecosystems. This monitoring will provide the primary indicator of the delivery of pollutants to the waters of the Great Barrier Reef, and consequently of the effectiveness of measures aimed at reducing that delivery. Parameters measured will include nutrient species, suspended solids and pesticides. Monitoring will consist of a conventional grab sampling program, as well as the use of innovative water quality sampling techniques at the mouths of the major rivers flowing into the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area (e.g. Fitzroy, Burdekin, Herbert, and Johnstone Rivers). Sampling will occur during both the wet and dry seasons. Outcomes: Information about current status and long-term (10 year) trends in water quality and marine ecosystem status in the GBRWHA.
Water quality monitoring will be carried out in the nearshore waters of the Great Barrier Reef to assess change over time in concentrations of key water quality indicators. Monitoring of marine water quality is required to establish the extent of improvement in lagoon water quality as a consequence of any reductions in delivery of pollutants to the marine environment. This monitoring will include the measurement of chlorophyll as a surrogate nutrient indicator, as well as the measurement of water turbidity and pesticide and pharmaceutically active compound concentrations at key inshore reef sites. Sampling methods will include state of the art water quality sensors with long-term data logging capacity to minimise fieldwork in the marine environment. Sampling of marine sediments will also be carried where necessary to assess long- term change in the accumulation of pesticides in the seafloor if these types of pollutants are being sequestered. Outcomes: Information about current status and long-term (10 year) trends in water quality and marine ecosystem status in the GBRWHA
Declining water quality is implicated in the degradation of near-shore Great Barrier Reef (GBR) ecosystems. The goal of this project is to provide a definitive answer to the question of how GBR water quality has changed since European arrival (pre- 1860). Using novel geochemical proxies in long-lived coral cores and innovative remote sensing techniques, we will develop quantitative histories of water quality and mangrove distribution change. This project will deliver the first integrated assessment of how coastal water quality and associated ecosystems have varied historically, which will be immediately applicable for long-term management of coastal ecosystems lining the GBR.
This project is undertaking acid sulfate soil risk mapping in priority areas from Bowen in the north to Miriamvale in the south.
This activity is part of the Douglas WQIP project # 5 – Monitoring and Modelling of Sediment and Nutrient Flow Within and From Waters of Douglas Shire.
This project has gathered data from the automatic, manual and community monitoring activities so that it is stored, can be viewed and downloaded from the web.
Monitoring and modeling information will underpin establishment of a decision-support system (DSS) for environmental protection and planning activities in the Douglas Shire. The DSS tool will play a valuable role in environmental and planning decision- making, by assessing land use change on pollutant generation at the stream reach level and providing a tool for priority setting and investment planning at the expert, manager and community user scale to achieve agreed water quality targets. Outcomes: A data management and desktop data delivery system for Douglas Shire has been completed. The system is currently operational and is using CSIRO infrastructure. The interim URL is www.data-tv.csiro.au/DSCDDD/index.aspx The water quality data is visible and available to both internal and external users.
The program is led by the Mackay-Whitsunday Natural Resource Management Group, with the goal to ensure Healthy Waterways in the Mackay-Whitsunday region. The program aims to cooperatively deal with threats and opportunities associated with the “health” of rivers and streams within the region. The programs objective is to have rivers and streams in the region that is able to sustain a high diversity of environmental, economic and social activities. The overall program is made up of: Information Collation and Analysis, Industry Management and Practice – Urban / Industrial / Agricultural, Monitoring, Research and Development.
Organisms exposed to pollutants often develop subtle cellular differences and may accumulate certain toxicants. The assessment of body burdens of pollutants in key ecosystem indicator organisms can provide a sensitive, early warning of the presence of pollutants. Extensive surveys of inshore Queensland crab pollutant concentrations have demonstrated this type of organism as a useful monitoring vehicle to use to assess changes in pesticide concentrations in nearshore marine biota. This program will be augmented by new methodologies as they become routinely available. Outcomes: Information about current status and long-term (10 year) trends in water quality and marine ecosystem status in the GBRWHA.
This project provides essential natural resource information on the health of our rivers and waterways and assists in making decisions about the sustainable management and use of the State’s water resources. The freshwater biological monitoring and assessment program throughout the State’s rivers and streams is to assess river health, using macroinvertebrates as indicators. The program uses the AUSRIVAS predictive models developed as part of the National River Health Program. The outputs of these models are core indicators of the State of the Environment Reporting and are also recommended for the NAPSWQ and NHT2 Monitoring and Evaluation programs. Data and outputs of this project are regularly used for condition and trend assessment for Water Resource Plans, SoE reporting and other assessment programs. Indices have been developed to separate impacts of flows from non-flow related impacts. This has been successfully applied in the Burnett and Pioneer WRPs.
“Aussie GRASS is a collaborative project that runs operationally a calibrated and validated national pasture growth model at 0.05 degrees resolution in near-real time. Information products including climate and simulated pasture maps and spatial
data are made available each month via the web as absolute data, and as percentiles relative to historic data. In addition seasonal forecast probability maps are produced. AussieGRASS is a tool that was developed in the early 1990s to monitor, at regional scales (e.g. local government areas or bioregions), key biophysical processes associated with pasture degradation and recovery. AussieGRASS also provides a means of early warning as to when and where livestock numbers may be out of balance with likely forage supply. This information, for example, forms part of the Australian Collaborative Rangelands Information System (ACRIS).
Measuring the extent of coastal benthic habitats is an important indicator of biodiversity, and is essential for the assessment of environmental change. This project aims to; Assess the geomorphology and sediments in order to better identify the distributions of distinctive biological communities; Develop a standardised geomorphological classification system for benthic features that can be applied across the various study regions and nationally; Improve the accessibility to the new acoustic datasets and image products by housing them in a national database linked with OzEstuaries
Develop an improved representation of nutrient sources, transformation and fate in GBR Catchments to assist Regional Bodies with target setting and prioritisation. Outcomes: Knowledge of the sources, transformation and fate of sediment and nutrient in the GBR catchments to assist target setting
“This project will sample and assess the contemporary fertility of typical surface soils from sugar and horticultural lands in sensitive reef catchments. This information will be interpreted in the context of land use, resource condition and trend and current fertiliser and by-product use practices with the emphasis on evidence of need to improve nutrient management practices and avoidance of overuse. Outcomes: • Collation and circulation of soil test diagnostic criteria for levels separating fertiliser response from non-responsive sites
• Assessment of hillslope erosion risk
• Documentation of laboratory methodology for inclusion in to the Australian • Handbook of Soil Chemical Methods
• Survey of findings by crop, catchment and region
• Assessment of the usefulness of ‘traditional’ soil P tests and the Mehlich 3 for predicting soluble P”
“The objective of this program is to mitigate impacts from the GBR catchments in the reef without undermining regional economic and communities. The project will give:
• Integrated regional economic models based on hydrological, ecological and socio- economic data
• Predictive understanding of the functioning of the region’s ecosystem from the perspective of water use – benefits and disadvantages
• Informed policy and investment decisions arising from new analytical capacity
Quantifying of social and economic indicators for use in water benefits accounting derived by the community”
“This task addresses the issue of maintaining marine plant ecosystems and is integral to Program C – Maintaining ecosystem quality. The task will measure the health of marine plant species (productivity) and looking at causative factors influencing health.
This task is of significance to the 25 year Strategic Plan for the GBRWHA, as seagrasses are described as one of the biological communities which the GBRWHA ensures the persistence of (broad area 1. Conservation). This task is necessary to obtain and disseminate accurate and timely information on seagrasses (broad area 4. Research and Monitoring) which will help decision makers (broad area 2. Resource management; broad area 5. Integrated planning) and maximise community confidence (broad area 3. Education, communication, consultation and commitment) in decisions made regarding seagrasses in the GBRWHA.
An outcome will be maps of tropical seagrasses for management of the resource and assessment of possible impacts. Much of the seagrass mapping conducted in the GBRWHA is issue related (e.g. cyclone and flood events, dredging, coastal developments) and requires up-to-date maps for best practice management decisions.”
Provides accurate information on vegetation cover change and greenhouse carbon accounting for policy development, resource monitoring, and for compliance with the Government’s Vegetation Management Policy
“Enhanced runoff of terrestrial nutrients (esp. N and P) into the Great Barrier Reef as a result of human land use in the GBR catchment is regarded as a threat to the health and status of reef and coastal benthic ecosystems. As external nutrients are rapidly and largely taken up by phytoplankton, concentrations of chlorophyll a, provide a robust and convenient index of nutrient availability and nutrient-related water quality status. An increase in chlorophyll concentration can be regarded as indicative of increased nutrient availability and eutrophication.
To maintain a watch on regional water quality status and trends within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, GBRMPA established water quality sampling sites throughout the park. Basic water quality parameters (temperature, salinity, surface chlorophyll, water transparency) have been sampled have been sampled since 1992 at regular intervals by tourism operators and the Queensland National Park & Wildlife Service. The chlorophyll analyses have been undertaken by AIMS. This task transfers the chlorophyll monitoring program from GBRMPA to the CRC to be managed by AIMS with the intention that the latter will develop a more cost-effective program including satellite remote sensing.”
Nitrogen management is a major challenge facing water quality managers in many parts of Australia. Recent research highlights the importance of nitrogen as the nutrient limiting primary production in some coastal waters and riverine systems. In these situations, an increased delivery of nitrogen is likely to boost algal growth to the detriment of ecosystem health. Increased stream loadings of nitrogen are now recognised as a significant impact of upstream land use in catchments. There is currently a recognised lack of reliable information available to managers to support their decision-making on nitrogen management issues. This is compromising the effectiveness of the very considerable investments now being made in riverine restoration to improve water quality. Riparian buffer zones, particularly those on low order streams, offer the potential for reducing nitrogen entry to waterways, from both surface runoff and shallow groundwater flows. While much of the nitrogen entering streams is attached to sediment in runoff, a significant proportion is often transported in a dissolved form as nitrate. Fluxes of nitrate through the riparian zone are intrinsically linked to water movement (both over and through the soil) and are also strongly influenced by biological processes occurring in that zone. The process of denitrification (microbial conversion of nitrate to nitrogen gas) is particularly important because it effectively removes nitrogen from the riparian zone to the atmosphere. Riparian zone denitrification can have an important impact on downstream water quality when significant amounts of nitrate-enriched groundwater are transported at shallow depths through carbon-rich, anoxic riparian soils, at flow rates that allow enough time for the denitrification process to occur. Outcomes: 1) A simple model for describing denitrification and associated processes in riparian zones; and 2) A methodology for identifying the locations within catchments where these processes may be important. This will enhance the utility of the CRC CH’s Toolkit by adding a new capability to catchment water quality models (such as LEMSS) that describes subsurface fluxes of nitrogen in riparian zones and predicts responses to management change. The research is also very relevant to urban stormwater management and will contribute to the better understanding and prediction of bioretention and subsurface wetland systems.
As the function of coral reefs is altered by the impacts of coral bleaching and the associated changes in nutrient processes and budgets, it is important that we are able to assess the response sensitivities and likely outcomes of management interventions aimed at mitigating human impacts. In the same way, it is essential that we are able to identify our knowledge gaps from a strategic perspective and also engage stakeholders in the process of assessing and deciding on the best strategies for future initiatives. Dynamic system models provide an interface and process based pathway for integrating these issues into an ecosystem level framework which allows consensus to be reached among stakeholders as to which approach and/or initiative is likely to be most cost effective and strategically sound.
The objectives of this research are to:
– Make robust estimates of terrestrial inputs of nutrients and sediment to the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area (GBRWHA) which appropriately weight the relative contributions of wet, dry, pristine and modified catchments.
– Resolve short-term biological and chemical processes in Great Barrier Reef (GBR) waters which influence the biological availability and uptake of nutrient materials (carbon, nitrogen, phosphate) in river plumes.
– Develop an improved estimate of the fate of nutrient materials (C, N, and P) delivered to shelf sediments as a result of land runoff and related biological production, with emphasis on nutrient burial, recycling and denitrification in nearshore (terrestrial) sediments.
– Use the above information and other appropriate field and historical data, to develop robust, closed models and budgets of nutrient inputs, processing and fates as a basis for comparing human-influenced and pristine shelf regions in the GBRWHA.
– Provide environmental and water quality data essential to the companion task (18.104.22.168): effects of terrestrial run-off on coastal reefs.
– During the course of the above, to maintain long-term water quality monitoring activities in representative sections of the central GBR.
– To provide reef managers and users with timely and appropriate information to assist them in the management and conservation of nearshore reef systems, particularly with respect to the management of enhanced terrestrial run-off.
Monitoring of the inshore coral reefs most at risk from land-based sources of pollutants will be carried out to ensure that any change in their status is identified. Monitoring sites will be associated with the river mouth and inshore marine water quality-monitoring programs to enable correlation with concurrently collected water quality information. Monitoring will include the use of traditional video-transect monitoring, as well as the assessment of coral recruitment and population demography. Outcomes: Information about current status and long-term (10 year) trends in water quality and marine ecosystem status in the GBRWHA.
Monitoring of the intertidal seagrass beds will be carried out to ensure that any change in their status is identified.
Monitoring sites will be associated with the river mouth and inshore marine water quality-monitoring programs to enable correlation with concurrently collected water quality information. Outcomes: Information about current status and long-term (10 year) trends in water quality and marine ecosystem status in the GBRWHA.