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Fitzroy

The Fitzroy region covers 156,000 square kilometres and is the largest region draining into the reef lagoon. Grazing is the predominant land use. Rainfall in 2010-2011 was extremely high with the Fitzroy River having its largest flow on record. The 2013 risk assessment rated the Fitzroy region as presenting a high risk to water quality with the main pollutant being sediment from grazing.

The Fitzroy's marine condition declined from moderate to poor. Inshore water quality and inshore seagrass meadows also declined from moderate to poor and coral reefs remained in poor condition

Mackay Whitsunday marine condition graph

On this page:

Marine data (.csv, 1 KB)


Fitzroy snapshot

Results—colour coding
Very goodGoodModerate
PoorVery Poor 

Management practices

Grazing Horticulture Grains
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 Proportion of producers who adopted improved practices between 2009 and 2011. Target: 80 per cent by 2013.
Grazing 16% - Moderate result Horticulture 13% - Poor result Fitzroy grains 18%

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 90% - Very good result Nitrogen 2% - Poor result Sediment 3% - Good result Pesticides 4% - Moderate result

Management practices

Grazing

Grazing 16% - Moderate resultTarget: 50 per cent by 2013.
From 2009 to 2011, 16 per cent of graziers (604) adopted improved land management practices.

There are 3666 graziers managing 126,880 square kilometres of land in the Fitzroy region.

By June 2011, 53 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)

Of the 604 graziers who implemented improved practices, 156 completed Reef Rescue Water Quality Grants projects facilitated by the Fitzroy Basin Association. A further 381 graziers completed relevant training through AgForward, private sector consultants (supported by the FarmReady program) and the Queensland Government (supported by the Caring for our Country and Reef Rescue programs). Approximately 67 graziers adopted improved management practices through participation in targeted extension projects implemented by the Queensland Government and the Fitzroy Basin Association.

Horticulture

Horticulture 13% - Poor resultTarget: 80 per cent by 2013.
From 2009 to 2011, 13 per cent of horticulture producers (14) adopted improved land management practices.

There are 106 horticulture producers managing 76 square kilometres of land in the Fitzroy region.

By June 2011, cutting-edge (A) or best management (B) systems were used by 42 per cent of horticulture producers for nutrients, 66 per cent for herbicides and 72 per cent for soil.

Graph data (.csv, 1KB)

All 14 producers who implemented improved practices did so with the support of Reef Rescue Water Quality Grants, facilitated by the Fitzroy Basin Association and the Growcom Farm Management System program. Eleven completed nutrient management projects, eight completed herbicide management projects and eleven completed soil management projects.

Grains

Grains 18% - Moderate resultTarget: 80 per cent by 2013.
From 2009 to 2011, 18 per cent of grain growers (107) adopted improved land management practices.

There are 600 grain growers managing 9146 square kilometres of land in the Fitzroy region.

By June 2011, cutting-edge (A) or best management (B) systems were used by 91 per cent of grain growers for nutrients, 84 per cent for herbicides and 80 per cent for soil.

Graph data (.csv, 1KB)

All 107 growers who implemented improved practices did so with the support of the Reef Rescue program. This included 60 growers who improved herbicide management practices through training and purchasing fit-for-purpose equipment.

An absence of data sources and systems to collect data on improved practice adoption outside of the Grains Best Management Program and Reef Rescue program means this is likely to be a very conservative estimate of improved practices.

Catchment indicators

Groundcover

Groundcover 90% - Very good resultTarget: 50 per cent by 2013.
Late dry season groundcover for the grazing lands of the Fitzroy region was high (90 per cent) in 2011.

Groundcover results for Fitzroy 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 (%)
Boyne (Gladstone) 84 94 0.4 0.2
Calliope 83 95 0.6 0.3
Fitzroy 78 90 3.6 0.3
Shoalwater 83 94 1.7 0.2
Styx 82 95 2.8 0.1
Water Park Creek 83 92 1.0 0.4
Fitzroy region 78 90 3.5 0.3

Note: the Fitzroy catchment constitutes 95 per cent of the reporting area for the region.

Groundcover changes over time

Mean annual late dry season groundcover in the Fitzroy region fluctuates considerably over time. For example, groundcover was as low as 69 per cent in 1994 compared to the highest groundcover level of 90 per cent in 2011.

Graph data (.csv, 1KB)

Declines in the mean groundcover correspond with increases in the area with cover under 50 per cent. These declines also correspond to below average rainfall in preceding years. For example, in both 1994 and 1995, the area with groundcover below 50 per cent was 10.3 per cent and the mean annual rainfall had been declining since 1989. The annual rainfall was 437 millimetres in 1994, more than 200 millimetres lower than the region's mean annual rainfall for 1988 to 2011.

Graph data (.csv, 1KB)

Graph data (.csv, 1KB)


Catchment pollutant loads

Nitrogen

Nitrogen 2% - Poor resultTarget: 50 per cent by 2013.
The estimated annual average total nitrogen load leaving catchments reduced by two per cent (20 tonnes).

Phosphorus

Phosphorus 5% - Moderate resultTarget: 50 per cent by 2013.
The estimated annual average total phosphorus load leaving catchments reduced by five per cent (32 tonnes).

Pesticides

Pesticides 4% - Moderate resultTarget: 50 per cent by 2013.
The estimated annual average pesticide load leaving catchments reduced by four per cent (26 kilograms). This does not include pesticide reductions from improved grazing practices.

Sediment

Sediment 3% - Good resultTarget: 20 per cent by 2020.
The estimated annual average suspended sediment load leaving catchments reduced by three per cent (38,000 tonnes).

Graph data (.csv, 1KB)

Land management changes in the horticulture and grains industries have not been modelled.


Marine

Water quality

Inshore water quality in the Fitzroy region declined from moderate to poor overall, representing a departure from the relatively stable water quality since 2005-2006. The divergence in the scores for the two water quality indicators chlorophyll a and suspended solids became more pronounced following the floods in 2010-2011.

In 2010-2011, chlorophyll a declined sharply to very poor with concentrations exceeding the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Water Quality Guideline for 99 per cent and 89 per cent of the inshore area, in the dry and wet season, respectively. Total suspended solids were again rated as moderate; however, concentrations exceeded the guidelines for 55 per cent and 47 per cent of the inshore area, in the dry and wet season, respectively.

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 gradient was supported by long-term assessments of water quality at specific sites, with variability between sites reflecting local hydrodynamic conditions and biophysical processes.

Graph data (.csv, 1KB)

Site-specific water quality was poor at Pelican Island, moderate at Humpy Island and very good at Barren Island, respectively, reflecting increasing distance away from river influence. At Pelican Island, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Water Quality Guidelines were exceeded for chlorophyll a, turbidity and concentrations of particulate nitrogen and phosphorus 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 PS-II herbicides at fixed monitoring sites in the Fitzroy region.

A range of herbicides was detected in the Fitzroy region including atrazine and its breakdown products, diuron, hexazinone, simazine and tebuthiuron. The Fitzroy River had large flow events in the 2010-2011 wet season and tebuthiuron and metolachlor were detected in flood waters at concentrations that met or exceeded the Great Barrier Reef Water Quality Guidelines and the ANZECC and ARMCANZ Interim Working Level for marine waters, respectively. Tebuthiuron was also detected at concentrations that exceeded the guidelines at the routine monitoring site at North Keppel Island. However, on average, concentrations of photosystem II (PSII) herbicides were rated as Category 4 at North Keppel Island.

Long-term monitoring of pesticides shows evidence of an increasing trend in the detection of herbicides in the Fitzroy since 2005. In 2010-2011, the higher concentrations typical of the wet season were sustained for longer periods of time.

Seagrass

The overall condition of inshore seagrass in the Fitzroy region declined to poor, driven largely by poor seagrass abundance. Reproductive effort and nutrient content were not measured every year. Hence the capacity to assess trends in these two indicators, which were both rated as moderate in 2010-2011, is limited.

Graph data (.csv, 1KB)

Seagrass meadows were monitored at coastal, estuarine and fringing reef locations in the Fitzroy region. Key environmental drivers in the region include exposure at low tide and high turbidity. Seagrass abundance at both the coastal Shoalwater Bay and estuarine Gladstone Harbour sites declined to poor during 2010-2011, which represented a reversal of previous trends. Similarly, seagrass meadows at the Great Keppel reef site, which continued to decrease in size and abundance, remained very poor. Relatively high reproductive effort at the reef and estuarine sites indicate these seagrass meadows may have a higher capacity to recover from disturbances compared to seagrass in coastal habitats. The nutrient status of seagrass tissue was moderate overall, reflecting high concentrations of nutrients at the reef site and moderate to good tissue nutrient status at the coastal and estuarine sites, respectively. High concentrations of nutrients in seagrass tissue are indicative of poor water quality in this area following record flood events.

Graph data (.csv, 1KB)

Graph data (.csv, 1KB)

Graph data (.csv, 1KB)

Coral

The overall condition of inshore coral reefs in the Fitzroy region has remained poor since 2007-2008.

Graph data (.csv, 1KB)

Coral cover declined to poor across the Fitzroy region and the density of juveniles was very poor. There was a marked reduction in coral cover and juvenile densities to depths of at least two metres on reefs inshore of Great Keppel Island, consistent with exposure to low salinity waters in the Fitzroy River flood plume. The prevalence of coral disease in the region appears to be related to the annual discharge from the Fitzroy River. Changes in the community composition of several reefs in the region may be a consequence of a shift in selective pressures. The rate of increase in coral cover was poor and is likely to reflect chronic stress associated with poor water quality and attributable to repeated flooding of the Fitzroy River in 2008, 2010 and 2011. The cover of macroalgae, however, was low and therefore good for the reef.

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

Graph data (.csv, 1KB)

Graph data (.csv, 1KB)

Graph data (.csv, 1KB)

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

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