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Cape York summary

The overall marine condition adjacent to Cape York improved from poor in 2010-2011 to moderate in 2011-2012 and 2012-2013. Inshore water quality also improved from poor in 2010-2011 to moderate in 2011-2012 and 2012-2013. The one southern seagrass bed monitored improved from very poor in 2011-2012 to poor in 2012-2013. No coral monitoring occurs in the inshore waters of Cape York region under the Marine Monitoring Program. However, some sites monitored in the southern section by the Australian Institute of Marine Science indicated that coral communities in Cape York were in relatively good condition.

Cape York marine condition graph

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Cape York 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
Proportion of graziers who adopted improved practices between 2009 and 2013.
Target: 50 per cent by 2013
Grazing 48%

Catchment indicators

Nitrogen Sediment
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
Nitrogen 6% Sediment 8%

Management practices

Grazing

grazing 48% - Good resultTarget: 50 per cent by 2013.
From 2009 to 2013, 48 per cent of graziers (23) are known to have adopted improved land management practices, up from 44 per cent (21) to June 2012.

Management practice adoption efforts in the Cape York region have focused upon the Normanby River catchment. There are 48 graziers managing 21,618 square kilometres of land in the Normanby catchment.

By June 2013, 27 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 23 graziers who implemented improved practices were supported by the Reef Rescue program, facilitated by Cape York Sustainable Futures. Of these, 13 graziers completed Savannah Plan training (through the Queensland Government) and 19 graziers implemented fencing and watering improvements to help manage riparian and frontage country, or to manage gullied areas.


Catchment pollutant loads

Nitrogen

Nitrogen 6% - Very poor resultTarget: 50 per cent by 2013.
The estimated annual average total nitrogen load leaving catchments reduced by six per cent (16 tonnes) by June 2013, up from five per cent (13 tonnes) by June 2012.

Phosphorus

Phosphorus 7% - Very poor resultTarget: 50 per cent by 2013.
The estimated annual average total phosphorus load leaving catchments reduced by seven per cent (13 tonnes) by June 2013, up from five per cent (9 tonnes) by June 2012.

Sediment

Sediment 8% - Very poor resultTarget: 20 per cent by 2020.
The estimated annual average suspended sediment load leaving catchments reduced by nine per cent (15,500 tonnes) by June 2013, up from eight per cent (13,500 tonnes) by June 2012.

Graph data (.csv, 1KB)

Note:

  • Dissolved inorganic nitrogen reductions are only modelled for regions with significant sugarcane areas.
  • No pesticide management data is available for Cape York.
  • Land management changes in the horticulture industry have not been modelled.

Marine

Water quality

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. In 2012-2013, a first step was made towards addressing this issue, with researchers completing an intensive field campaign in Princess Charlotte Bay.

Inshore water quality in Cape York (assessed by remote sensing) was moderate in 2011-2012 and 2012-2013, and has varied from poor to moderate since 2005-2006, with no clear correlation with freshwater discharge. The two water quality indicators, chlorophyll a and suspended solids, varied similarly over time until 2010-2011, when the difference between scores increased and chlorophyll a scored consistently lower than suspended solids.

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)

Chlorophyll a was rated as very poor in 2011-2012 and poor in 2012-2013. Concentrations exceeded the Great Barrier Reef Water Quality Guidelines for 93 per cent of the inshore area in the dry season in 2012-2013. However, in the wet season, the guidelines were exceeded for 46 per cent of the inshore area, mainly around river mouths and bays. Total suspended solids were rated as good in 2011-2012 and 2012-2013. Concentrations exceeded the guidelines for 50 and 17 per cent of the inshore area in the dry and wet seasons, respectively, in 2012-2013.

No pesticides were detected in flood plumes in 2011-2012 and no routine monitoring of pesticides occurred in 2012-2013.

The marine environment in the Cape York region is relatively pristine compared to other regions. However, increasing pressure for 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 improved from very poor in 2011-2012 to poor in 2012-2013 and has been highly variable since 2005-2006. This is due to assessment being based on only one sampling site, a complex and highly variable environment and the effect of significant rain events and cyclones on seagrass abundance and reproductive effort. Although additional monitoring sites were established across the Cape York region in 2012-2013, for the purpose of consistency and interpretation of long-term trends, the new sites have been excluded from this Report Card. As the pre-existing long-term monitoring sites do not adequately capture the spatial variability of the region, Cape York seagrass data was not used in the reef-wide assessment of seagrass condition.

Graph data (.csv, 1KB)

Seagrass was 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 was poor in 2011-2012 and 2012-2013, up from very poor in 2010-2011. Reproductive effort improved from very poor in 2011-2012 to moderate in 2012-2013, 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 poor in both 2011-2012 and 2012-2013, reflecting local water quality conditions.

Graph data (.csv, 1KB)

Coral

No coral monitoring occurs in the inshore waters of the Cape York region under the Marine Monitoring Program; however, some sites in the southern section are monitored by the Australian Institute of Marine Science as part of the Long Term (Reef) Monitoring Program. An Australian Institute of Marine Science report published in 2012 indicated that coral communities in Cape York were healthy, having recovered to early 1980s condition following impacts of cyclones, crown-of-thorns starfish and bleaching over the intervening years. This was the only region in the reef where this was the case.

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

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