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Burdekin summary

The Burdekin's overall inshore marine condition remained poor in 2011-2012 and 2012-2013. Inshore water quality remained moderate in 2011-2012 and 2012-2013, while inshore seagrass meadows improved from very poor in 2011-2012 to poor in 2012-2013. Coral reefs remained in poor condition in both 2011-2012 and 2012-2013.

Burdekin marine condition graph

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Burdekin snapshot

A standardised scoring system was developed for each of the key indicators in the report card. The scoring system is used to assess and communicate progress towards the management practice and catchment targets as well as current marine condition using the following categories:

Results—colour coding
Very goodGoodModerate
PoorVery Poor 

Management practices

Grazing Sugarcane Horticulture
Proportion of graziers who adopted improved practices between 2009 and 2013.
Target: 50 per cent by 2013
Proportion of growers who adopted improved practices between 2009 and 2013.
Target: 80 per cent by 2013
Proportion of producers who adopted improved practices between 2009 and 2013.
Target: 80 per cent by 2013
Grazing 54% Sugarcane 55% Horticulture 63%

Catchment indicators

Groundcover Nitrogen Sediment Pesticides
Late dry season
groundcover as
at 2012–2013.
Target: 50 per cent by 2013.
Reduction in
annual average
total nitrogen
load between
2009 and 2013.
Target: 50 per cent
Reduction in
annual average
sediment load
between 2009
and 2013.
Target: 20 per cent by 2020
Reduction in
annual average
pesticide load
between 2009
and 2013.
Target: 50 per cent by 2013
Groundcover 82% Nitrogen 10% Sediment 16% Pesticides 13%

Management practices

Grazing

Grazing 54% - Very good resultTarget: 50 per cent by 2013.
From 2009 to June 2013, 54 per cent of graziers (533) are known to have adopted improved land management practices, up from 39 per cent (381) to June 2012. The Burdekin region was one of two regions that exceeded the target.

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

By June 2013, 70 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, up from 62 per cent in June 2012.

Graph data (.csv, 1KB)

A total of 253 of the graziers who implemented improved practices completed Reef Rescue Water Quality Grants projects facilitated by NQ Dry Tropics. The Australian Government’s FarmReady program supported 116 graziers (through provision of relevant training through AgForward and private sector consultants). Queensland Government extension projects resulted in management practice improvements in a further 164 grazing businesses.

Sugarcane

Sugarcane 55% - Moderate resultTarget: 80 per cent by 2013.
From 2009 to 2013, 55 per cent of sugarcane growers (306) are known to have adopted improved land management practices, up from 41 per cent (228) to June 2012.

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

By June 2013, cutting-edge (A) or best management (B) practice systems were used by 21 per cent of sugarcane growers for nutrients, 38 per cent for herbicides and 4.1 per cent for soil. This was up from 20 per cent for nutrients, 37 per cent for herbicides and 3.6 per cent for soil in June 2012.

Graph data (.csv, 1KB)

The 306 growers who implemented improved practices completed Reef Rescue Water Quality Grants projects facilitated by NQ Dry Tropics. Of these, 166 improved nutrient management, 94 improved herbicide management, 78 improved soil management and 32 improved irrigation management. The Reef Rescue program improved management practices on over 65,000 hectares of sugarcane farm land in the Burdekin region from 2009 to 2013.

Horticulture

Horticulture 63% - Good resultTarget: 80 per cent by 2013.
From 2009 to 2013, 63 per cent of horticulture producers (120) are known to have adopted improved land management practices, up from 57 per cent (109) to June 2012.

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

By June 2013, cutting-edge (A) or best management (B) practice systems were used by 47 per cent of horticulture producers for nutrients, 80 per cent for herbicides and 81 per cent for soil. This was up from 45 per cent for nutrients, 80 per cent for herbicides and 77 per cent for soil in June 2012.

All 120 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 (FMS) program. Of these, 64 completed nutrient management projects, 21 completed herbicide management projects and 26 completed soil management projects.

Graph data (.csv, 1KB)

Industry-wide management system adoption is estimated using the proportions established through the Growcom FMS in each region, and expressed as the percentage of growers with A, B, C or D management systems.

It is important to note that the level of grower participation in the program has increased year by year. As the proportion of the grower population represented in the program increases, so the distribution of A, B, C or D management systems changes over time as a reflection of the larger and more representative sample size. Early participants in the program have often been relatively progressive landholders, and this is apparent in terms of relatively high proportions of A and B in the management system distribution in early years. Increasing program participation over time can have the effect of diluting the percentage of growers in the A and B categories over time. This is not to be seen as a regression of farm management systems.

Catchment indicators

Groundcover

Groundcover 82% - Very good resultTarget: 50 per cent by 2013.
Late dry season mean groundcover for grazing lands of the Burdekin region was high (86 per cent by June 2012 and 82 per cent by June 2013). This is mostly due to high rainfall over recent years. The 26-year mean groundcover was 76 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 26-year mean groundcover (%) 2012 mean groundcover (%) 2013 mean groundcover (%) Area with less than 50% groundcover averaged over past 26 years (%) Area with less than 50% groundcover in 2012 (%) Area with less than 50% groundcover in 2013 (%)
Black 87 90 89 1.6 0.4 0.7
Burdekin 75 86 81 8.2 0.4 1.1
Don 85 91 89 1.8 0.1 0.3
Haughton 85 90 86 2.1 0.3 0.8
Ross 84 90 84 3.2 0.7 2.7
Burdekin region 76 86 82 7.9 0.4 1.1

Groundcover changes over time

Groundcover in the Burdekin region is highly variable over time. For example, in 1996 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 mean 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 10% - Very poor resultTarget: 50 per cent by 2013.
The estimated annual average total nitrogen load leaving catchments reduced by 10 per cent (574 tonnes) by June 2013, up from eight per cent (474 tonnes) by June 2012. Agricultural fertiliser use is a key source of dissolved inorganic nitrogen. The estimated annual average dissolved inorganic nitrogen load leaving catchments reduced by 14 per cent (261 tonnes) by June 2013.

Phosphorus

Phosphorus 11% - Very poor resultTarget: 50 per cent by 2013.
Agricultural fertiliser use is a key source of phosphorus. The estimated annual average total phosphorus load leaving catchments reduced by 11 per cent (148 tonnes) by June 2013, up from eight per cent (108 tonnes) by June 2012.

Pesticides

Pesticides 13% - Poor resultTarget: 50 per cent by 2013.
The estimated annual average pesticide load leaving catchments reduced by 13 per cent (276 kilograms) by June 2013, up from 12 per cent (241 kilograms) by June 2012.

Sediment

Sediment 16% - Very good resultTarget: 20 per cent by 2020.
The estimated annual average suspended sediment load leaving catchments reduced by 16 per cent (399,000 tonnes) by June 2013, up from 11 per cent (287,300 tonnes) by June 2012. Reporting of investment in riparian fencing projects has added to the reductions.

Graph data (.csv, 1KB)

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


Marine

Water quality

Inshore water quality (assessed by remote sensing of chlorophyll a and suspended solids) in the Burdekin region remained moderate in 2011-2012 and 2012-2013. Chlorophyll a and suspended solids remained poor and moderate, respectively, in both years. 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 years.

Concentrations of chlorophyll a exceeded the Great Barrier Reef Water Quality Guidelines for 85 and 61 per cent of the inshore area in the dry and wet season, respectively, in 2012-2013. Concentrations of total suspended solids exceeded the guidelines for 47 and 36 per cent of the inshore area in the dry and wet seasons, respectively, in 2012-2013.

Trend in the Water Quality Index from 2011-2012 to 2012-2013. The Water Quality Index is also separated into component scores for concentrations of chlorophyll a and total suspended solids. Trend data is only shown for these two years, because a major change in the remote sensing algorithms mean the historical data is no longer directly comparable. The full historical time-series will be reprocessed for the next report card.

Graph data (.csv, 1KB)

Water quality across the region showed a clear gradient of improvement from inshore areas more frequently exposed to flood waters to offshore areas. This 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 and very good at the two mid-shelf sites and moderate at Magnetic Island in the inshore region. The water quality scores for this region have been stable over the past four years, with a period of slight increases in suspended solids, particulate nitrogen and particulate phosphorus in 2011-2012. The site-specific water quality scores are a long-term integrated assessment of four water quality indicators relative to the Great Barrier Reef Water Quality Guidelines (GBRMPA 2010).

Scores for site-specific water quality and pesticides at fixed monitoring sites in the Burdekin region.

In 2012-2013, concentrations of photosystem II (PSII) herbicides at Orpheus and Magnetic Islands increased from 2011-2012 levels to be above those known to affect photosynthesis in diatoms (Category 4) and this level was maintained at Cape Cleveland in both years. The highest PSII herbicide equivalent concentrations (Category 3) were detected in grab samples of flood waters near Palm Island, approximately 36 kilometres from the mouth of Ross River and 130 kilometres from the mouth of the Burdekin River.

A range of pesticides was detected in the Burdekin region including atrazine and its breakdown products, diuron, hexazinone, simazine, tebuthiuron, metolachlor, terbutryn, ametryn and imidacloprid. Routine monitoring showed spatial variability in the abundance of pesticides, with atrazine concentrations typically exceeding diuron concentrations at Cape Cleveland, while diuron was present at higher concentrations at Magnetic and Orpheus Islands.

Seagrass

The overall condition of inshore seagrass in the Burdekin region improved from very poor in 2011-2012 to poor in 2012-2013. The improvement in condition was largely a result of increases in abundance and reproductive effort, indicating localised recovery from Cyclone Yasi.

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. Seagrass abundance across the region improved from very poor in 2011-2012 to poor in 2012-2013 and is at its highest levels for the past four years. Reproductive effort also improved from very poor in 2011-2012 to moderate in 2012-2013, suggesting an improved capacity to recover from future disturbances. The nutrient content of seagrass tissue was poor in both monitoring seasons 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 in 2011-2012 and 2012-2013, gradually declining from moderate since 2008-2009.

Graph data (.csv, 1KB)

Coral cover across the Burdekin region remains very poor and has not recovered from the impact of coral bleaching in 1998 and 2002 and Cyclones Larry (2006) and Yasi (2010). In addition to the direct influence of these events on coral cover, it appears the loss of corals has substantially limited the supply of larvae and, hence, the rate at which coral communities can recover. Numbers of juveniles increased from very poor in 2011-2012 to poor in 2012-2013. However, relatively high levels of macroalgae and disease coinciding with periods of above-median discharge from the Burdekin River indicate that environmental conditions may be compounding the effects of previous disturbances and suppressing the recovery of coral communities.

Graph data (.csv, 1KB)

Graph data (.csv, 1KB)

Graph data (.csv, 1KB)

Average cover of hard corals, cover of macroalgae and density of hard coral juveniles in the Burdekin region from 2005 to 2013.

Last updated:
31 March, 2015
Last reviewed:
5 September, 2014

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