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Cape York

The Cape York region includes 43,000 square kilometres of catchments that drain eastwards into the Great Barrier Reef. The main agricultural land use is grazing. The 2013 risk assessment rated the Cape York region as presenting a low risk to water quality relative to other regions.

The marine condition off Cape York was poor. Inshore water quality was poor and the one southern seagrass bed monitored was in moderate condition. No coral monitoring occurs in the Cape York region under the Marine Monitoring Program; however some sites are monitored in the southern section by the Australian Institute of Marine Science as part of the Long Term (Reef) Monitoring Program. No herbicides were detected in 2010-2011.

Cape York marine condition graph

On this page:

Marine data (.csv, 1 KB)


Cape York snapshot

Results—colour coding
Very goodGoodModerate
PoorVery Poor 

Management practices

Grazing Horticulture
Proportion of graziers who adopted improved practices between 2009 and 2011. Target: 50 per cent by 2013 Proportion of producers who adopted improved practices between 2009 and 2011. Target: 80 per cent by 2013
Grazing 33% - Very good result Horticulture 40% - Good result

Catchment indicators

Nitrogen Sediment
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
Nitrogen 4% - Poor result Sediment 4% Good result

Management practices

Grazing

grazing 33% - Very good resultTarget: 50 per cent by 2013.
From 2009 to 2011, 33 per cent of graziers (16) adopted improved land management practices.

There are 48 graziers managing 21,618 square kilometres of land in the Cape York region.

By June 2011, 27 per cent per cent of graziers were using B practice systems that are likely to maintain land in good condition or improve land in lesser condition.

Graph data (.csv, 1KB)

All 16 graziers who implemented improved practices were supported by the Reef Rescue program, facilitated by Cape York Sustainable Futures. Of these, five graziers completed Savannah Plan training (through the Queensland Government) and eight graziers implemented fencing and watering improvements to help manage riparian and frontage country.

Horticulture

Horticulture 40% - Good resultTarget: 80 per cent by 2013.
From 2009 to 2011, 40 per cent of horticulture producers (12) adopted improved land management practices.

There are 30 horticulture producers managing 30 square kilometres of land in the Cape York region.


Catchment pollutant loads

Nitrogen

Nitrogen 4% - Poor resultTarget: 50 per cent by 2013.
The estimated annual average total nitrogen load leaving catchments reduced by four per cent (15 tonnes).

Phosphorus

Phorphorus 4% - Poor resultTarget: 50 per cent by 2013.
The estimated annual average total phosphorus load leaving catchments reduced by four per cent (six tonnes).

Sediment

Sediment 4% - Good resultTarget: 20 per cent by 2020.
The estimated annual average suspended sediment load leaving catchments reduced by four per cent (7000 tonnes).

Graph data (.csv, 1KB)

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


Marine

Water quality

Inshore water quality in Cape York is poor overall and has varied from poor to moderate since 2005-2006 showing no clear correlation with high freshwater discharges. The two water quality indicators, chlorophyll a and suspended solids, have also varied similarly over time and were poor and moderate, respectively, in 2010-2011.

Graph data (.csv, 1KB)

Chlorophyll a exceeded the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Water Quality Guidelines for 95 per cent of the inshore area in the dry season. However, in the wet season, the guidelines were exceeded for 45 per cent of the inshore area, mainly around river mouths and bays. Total suspended solids exceeded the guidelines for 76 and 20 per cent of the inshore area, in the dry and wet seasons, respectively.

There is no comprehensive, ongoing in situ water quality monitoring in the Cape York region. Estimates of chlorophyll a and total suspended solids are derived from remote sensing only which requires further field validation and, hence, estimates have relatively low reliability compared to those for other regions. As such, Cape York water quality data was not used in overall assessments of Great Barrier Reef water quality and reef health.

The marine environment in the Cape York region is relatively pristine compared to other regions. However, increasing pressure from development and the associated impacts on water quality in the region mean that Cape York is a high priority for intensifying monitoring efforts.

Seagrass

The condition of inshore seagrass in the Cape York region declined to moderate overall and has been highly variable since 2005-2006. This is due to a complex and highly variable environment and the impacts of recent significant rain events and cyclones on seagrass abundance and reproductive effort. The lack of seagrass monitoring sites in Cape York does not adequately capture the spatial variability of the region. As such, Cape York seagrass data was not used in the Great Barrier Reef-wide assessment of seagrass condition.

Graph data (.csv, 1KB)

Seagrass is monitored at one fringing reef location in the southern part of the Cape York region, Archer Point, which supports a diverse range of species. The environment is characterised by fluctuating temperature and salinity, and the growth of seagrass is primarily influenced by physical disturbance from waves and swell and associated sediment movement. Seagrass abundance in 2010-2011 declined to very poor while reproductive effort was good, indicating communities may have a relatively high potential for recovery from environmental disturbances compared to seagrass in other regions. Nutrient ratios of seagrass tissue were again rated as moderate, reflecting local water quality conditions.

Graph data (.csv, 1KB)

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

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