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Burdekin

The Burdekin region covers 141,000 square kilometres and is largely drained by the Burdekin River system. The main agricultural land use is grazing. The 2010-2011 year saw above median rainfall and discharges in the Burdekin region. The 2013 risk assessment rated the Burdekin region as presenting a high risk to water quality with the main pollutants being nitrogen and pesticides from sugarcane and sediment from grazing.

The Burdekin's marine condition remained poor. Inshore water quality was moderate overall, while inshore seagrass meadows declined from poor to very poor and coral reefs remained in poor condition.

Burdekin marine condition graph

On this page:

Marine data (.csv, 1 KB)


Burdekin snapshot

Results—colour coding
Very goodGoodModerate
PoorVery Poor 

Management practices

Grazing Sugarcane Horticulture
Proportion of graziers who adopted improved practices between 2009 and 2011. Target: 50 per cent by 2013 Proportion of growers who adopted improved practices between 2009 and 2011. Target: 80 per cent by 2013 Proportion of producers who adopted improved practices between 2009 and 2011. Target: 80 per cent by 2013
Grazing 20% - Good result Sugarcane 28% - Moderate result Horticulture 27% - Moderate result

Catchment indicators

Groundcover Nitrogen Sediment Pesticides
Late dry season groundcover as at 2010-2011. Target: 50 per cent by 2013. Reduction in annual average total nitogren load between 2009 and 2011. Target: 50 per cent Reduction in annual average sediment load between 2009 and 2011. Target: 20 per cent by 2020 Reduction in annual average pesticide load between 2009 and 2011. Target: 50 per cent by 2013
Groundcover 92% - Very good result Nitrogen 8% - Poor result Sediment 10% - Dark green result Pesticides 17% - Good result

Management practices

Grazing

Grazing 17% - Moderate resultTarget: 50 per cent by 2013.
From 2009 to June, 20 per cent of graziers (199) adopted improved land management practices.

There are 983 graziers managing 135,753 square kilometres of land in the Burdekin region.

By June 2011, 60 per cent of graziers were using (A or B) practice systems that are likely to maintain land in good to very good condition or improve land in lesser condition.

Graph data (.csv, 1KB)

Seventy-four of the graziers who implemented improved practices completed Reef Rescue Water Quality Grants projects facilitated by NQ Dry Tropics. The remaining 125 completed relevant training through AgForward, private sector consultants (supported by the FarmReady program) and the Queensland Government.

Sugarcane

Sugarcane 28% - Moderate resultTarget: 80 per cent by 2013.
From 2009 to 2011, 28 per cent of sugarcane growers (155) adopted improved land management practices.

There are 556 growers managing 829 square kilometres of land in the Burdekin region.

By June 2011, cutting-edge (A) or best management (B) practice systems were used by 20 per cent of sugarcane growers for nutrients, 36 per cent for herbicides and four per cent for soil.

Graph data (.csv, 1KB)

The 155 growers who implemented improved practices completed Reef Rescue Water Quality Grants projects facilitated by NQ Dry Tropics. Of these, 95 improved nutrient management, 40 improved pesticide management and 51 improved soil management.

Horticulture

Horticulture 27% - Moderate resultTarget: 80 per cent by 2013.
From 2009 to 2011, 27 per cent of horticulture producers (52) adopted improved land management practices.

There are 192 growers managing 135 square kilometres of land in the Burdekin region.

By June 2011, cutting-edge (A) or best management (B) practice systems were used by 49 per cent of horticulture producers for nutrients, 82 per cent for herbicides and 78 per cent for soil.

Graph data (.csv, 1KB)

All 52 horticulture producers who implemented improved practices did so with the support of Reef Rescue Water Quality Grants, facilitated by NQ Dry Tropics and the Growcom Farm Management System program. Of these, 36 completed nutrient management projects, 11 completed herbicide management projects and 12 completed soil management projects.

Catchment indicators

Groundcover

Groundcover 92% - Very good resultTarget: 50 per cent by 2013.
Late dry season groundcover for grazing lands of the Burdekin region was high (92 per cent) in 2011. This is mostly due to high rainfall over recent years.

The 24-year mean groundcover was 75 per cent. Mean groundcover in the Burdekin region is mainly influenced by the Burdekin catchment which constitutes 94 per cent of the reporting area.

Groundcover results for the Burdekin region and catchments
Catchment/region 24-year mean groundcover (%) 2011 mean groundcover (%) Area with less than 50% groundcover averages over past 24 years (%) Area with less than 50% groundcover in 2011 (%)
Black 87 94 1.7 0.2
Burdekin 74 892 8.8 0.2
Don 84 95 2.0 0.1
Haughton 84 95 2.2 0.1
Ross 82 96 3.3 0.5
Burdekin region 75 92 8.4 0.2

Groundcover changes over time

Groundcover in the Burdekin region fluctuates significantly over time. For example, in 1996 the mean late dry season groundcover was 58 per cent while the following year it was 78 per cent. The area with groundcover less than 50 per cent also varies greatly. Increases in the area with less than 50 per cent groundcover correspond to low mean late dry season groundcover and below average annual rainfall. For example, in 1996, 31.6 per cent of the reporting area had groundcover less than 50 per cent.

Graph data (.csv, 1KB)

Graph data (.csv, 1KB)

Graph data (.csv, 1KB)


Catchment pollutant loads

Nitrogen

Nitrogen 8% - Poor resultTarget: 50 per cent by 2013.
The estimated annual average total nitrogen load leaving catchments reduced by eight per cent (480 tonnes). Agricultural fertiliser use is a key source of dissolved inorganic nitrogen and phosphorus. The estimated annual average dissolved inorganic nitrogen load leaving catchments reduced by 15 per cent (271 tonnes).

Phosphorus

Phosphorus 7%Target: 50 per cent by 2013.
The estimated annual average total phosphorus load leaving catchments reduced by seven per cent (91 tonnes).

Pesticides

Pesticides 17% - Good resultTarget: 50 per cent by 2013.
The estimated annual average pesticide load leaving catchments reduced by 17 per cent (359 kilograms).

Sediment

Sediment 10% - Very good resultTarget: 20 per cent by 2020.
The estimated annual average suspended sediment load leaving catchments reduced by 10 per cent (257,000 tonnes).

Graph data (.csv, 1KB)

Land management changes in the horticulture industry have not been modelled.


Marine

Water quality

Inshore water quality in the Burdekin region remained moderate in 2010-2011, although there were declines in the underlying scores for the two water quality indicators chlorophyll a and suspended solids. Scores for these two indicators have varied since 2005 with the initial pattern of higher scores for chlorophyll a and lower scores for suspended solids reversing in later monitoring years

In 2010-2011, chlorophyll a was again rated as poor with concentrations exceeding the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Water Quality Guideline for 98 and 69 per cent of the inshore area, in the dry and wet season, respectively. Total suspended solids were rated as moderate; however, concentrations exceeded the guidelines for 62 and 34 per cent of the inshore area, in the dry and wet seasons, respectively.

Graph data (.csv, 1KB)

Remote sensing of water quality across the region showed a clear gradient of declining water quality from offshore areas to inshore areas more frequently exposed to flood waters. This onshore-offshore gradient was supported by long-term assessments of water quality at specific sites with variability between sites reflecting local hydrodynamic conditions and biophysical processes.

Site-specific water quality was good at the two mid-shelf sites and poor at Magnetic Island in the inshore region The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Water Quality Guideline values for turbidity and concentrations of particulate phosphorus were exceeded at Magnetic Island in 2010-2011. The water quality scores are a long-term integrative assessment based on four indicators of water quality relative to the Great Barrier Reef Water Quality Guidelines (GBRMPA 2009b).

Map: Water quality and pesticide scores for PSII herbicides at fixed monitoring sites in the Burdekin region.

A range of herbicides was detected in the Burdekin region including atrazine and its breakdown products diuron, hexazinone, simazine and tebuthiuron. The Burdekin River had a large flood event in the 2010-2011 wet season and tebuthiuron was detected in flood waters at concentrations that exceeded Great Barrier Reef Water Quality Guideline values. Routine monitoring showed spatial variability in the abundance of herbicides, and atrazine concentrations typically exceeded diuron concentrations at Cape Cleveland and Magnetic Island while at Orpheus Island, closer to the Wet Tropics, diuron was present at higher concentrations. In 2010-2011, concentrations of photosystem II (PSII) herbicides were above those known to affect photosynthesis in diatoms (Category 4) at Cape Cleveland and Magnetic Island.

Long-term monitoring of pesticides shows evidence of an increasing trend in the detection of herbicides at some sites in the Burdekin since 2005. In 2010-2011, higher concentrations typical of the wet season were sustained for longer periods of time, as evidenced by a doubling in average PSII herbicide concentrations.

Seagrass

The overall condition of inshore seagrass in the Burdekin region has progressively declined from good in 2005-2006 to very poor in 2010-2011. The very poor assessment is driven by large declines in abundance and reproductive effort and increased nutrient enrichment of seagrass tissue. Cyclone Yasi had an impact on the region with abundance and meadow extent declining across the region until only a few isolated shoots remained at the monitored sites.

Graph data (.csv, 1KB)

Seagrass monitoring was conducted in coastal and reef habitats primarily influenced by wind-driven turbidity and pulsed delivery of nutrients and sediment, and seagrass abundance remained very poor across the region. There was a decline in the reproductive effort of seagrass meadows at reef locations (Picnic Bay and Cockle Bay on Magnetic Island) and coastal locations (Bushland Beach and Shelly Bay) to poor and very poor, respectively. Low reproductive effort may indicate reduced capacity for recovery from environmental disturbances. The nutrient content of seagrass tissue was either very poor or poor and indicated nutrient enrichment in coastal and reef habitats, which reflected local water quality conditions.

Graph data (.csv, 1KB)

Graph data (.csv, 1KB)

Coral

The overall condition of inshore coral reefs in the Burdekin remained poor and has declined from moderate since 2007-2008.

Graph data (.csv, 1KB)

Coral cover across the Burdekin region has not recovered from the impact of coral bleaching in 1998 and 2002, and declined further following Cyclone Yasi to very poor in 2010-2011. Some reefs had high larval settlement in 2010; however, Cyclone Yasi hit shortly after settlement and will most likely have a negative impact on the development of larvae into juvenile and then adult colonies.

Average cover of hard corals, cover of macroalgae and density of hard coral juveniles in the Burdekin region from 2005 to 2011.

Graph data (.csv, 1KB)

Graph data (.csv, 1KB)

Graph data (.csv, 1KB)

There was also a reduction in the density of juvenile corals from moderate to very poor levels that are likely to compound the low rates of increase in coral cover during periods free from acute disturbance. Reductions in the cover of macroalgae due to Cyclone Yasi are expected to be temporary due to the high availability of conditions that favour the persistence of macroalgae. The factors underlying the poor condition assessment suggest a lack of resilience of reef communities in the Burdekin region.

Last updated:
27 August, 2014
Last reviewed:
4 December, 2013

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