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Groundcover

Improved land management helps maintain groundcover during dry periods when erosion risk is highest.

Groundcover and rainfall trends are reported for the grazing lands of the following regions:

  • Herbert catchment (in the Wet Tropics region)
  • Burdekin region
  • Mackay Whitsunday region
  • Fitzroy region
  • Burnett Mary region.

Groundcover is not reported for the Cape York region and the Wet Tropics region, with the exception of the Herbert catchment. These areas are generally considered to have low grazing pressure and the tree cover is too high for groundcover monitoring derived from satellite imagery.

Great Barrier Reef

Groundcover

Target: A minimum of 50% late dry season groundcover on dry tropical grazing land by 2013.

Result: Target met

The 2010 mean groundcover was high (94%), well above the Reef Plan target of 50% mostly due to high rainfall over recent years. The area below the 50% target was only 1% in 2010.

All regions had mean groundcover levels well above the target, ranging from 94% (Fitzroy) to 98% (Mackay Whitsunday and Wet Tropics). The 23-year mean statistics were calculated for the period 1987 to 2010 inclusive.

Improved land management helps maintain groundcover during dry periods when erosion risk is highest.

Region 23-year mean ground cover(%) 2010 mean ground cover(%) Area with less than 50% ground cover averaged over last 23 years (%) Area with less than 50% groundcover in 2010 (%)
Wet Tropics – Herbert catchment only 91.4 97.6 2.1 0.6
Mackay Whitsunday 90 97.9 3.8 1.0
Burdekin 74.7 94.8 16.5 1.0
Fitzroy 80.1 93.5 9.3 1.0
Burnett Mary 87.3 94.6 4.3 0.8
Total Great Barrier Reef 78.6 94.2 11.7 1.0

Groundcover changes over time

Graph data (.csv, 1 KB)

Graph data (.csv, 3 KB)

Graph data (.csv, 3 KB)

The 2010 mean groundcover across the Great Barrier Reef catchment is the highest of the past 23 years. This has resulted in a very low proportion (1%) of the catchment being below 50% groundcover and corresponds with above average annual rainfall in the past four years. Over the past 23 years there were periods where almost 30% of the area had low groundcover. During periods of low rainfall, mean groundcover has approached 60% and the percentage of area with mean groundcover below 50% reached almost 30%. 

Regions with generally high rainfall have consistently high levels of groundcover.  For example, the Mackay Whitsunday, Wet Tropics and Burnett Mary regions had mean groundcover greater than 70%. These regions have mean annual rainfall levels of at least 750mm.  In comparison, regions with lower, more variable mean annual rainfall (Fitzroy and Burdekin) show greater fluctuations in groundcover.  In these regions, mean groundcover falls in drier years and the area which is below 50% groundcover increases.

Wet Tropics

Groundcover (Herbert catchment only)

Late dry season groundcover for grazing lands of the Herbert catchment was high (98%). The 23-year mean statistics were calculated for the period 1987 to 2010 inclusive.

Groundcover results for the Herbert catchment (Wet Tropics region)
Catchment 23-year mean groundcover(%) 2010 mean groundcover(%) Percentage of regional area with less than 50% groundcover averaged over last 23 years (%) Percentage of regional area with less than 50% groundcover in 2010(%)
Herbert (Wet Tropics region) 91.4 97.6 2.1 0.6

Groundcover changes over time

Graph data (.csv, 3 KB)

Graph data (.csv, 3 KB)

Graph data (.csv, 1 KB)

The Herbert catchment had consistently high mean groundcover from 1987 to 2010 with a mean groundcover level of 91.4% and a consistently low proportion of grazing area under the Reef Plan target of 50% groundcover. The minimum mean groundcover for the monitoring period was 76% in 1994. The highest percentage of area with groundcover below 50% was 12%, also in 1994. The Herbert catchment is the second wettest of the areas reported (970mm mean annual rainfall).

Burdekin

Groundcover

Late dry season groundcover for grazing lands was 95%. This is due to high rainfall over recent years. This is due to high rainfall over recent years.

Mean groundcover in the Burdekin region is mainly influenced by the Burdekin catchment, which constitutes 94% of the reporting area. In 2010, extensive cloud cover obscured a large portion of the lower Burdekin catchment. This obscured area has historically been an area of lower groundcover and is not reported on here. The 23-year mean statistics were calculated for the period 1987 to 2010 inclusive.

Groundcover results for the Burdekin region and catchments
Catchment/ region 23-year mean groundcover(%) 2010 mean groundcover(%) Percentage of regional area with less than 50% groundcover averaged over last 23 years (%) Percentage of regional area with less than 50% groundcover in 2010(%)
Black 86.4 96.2 6.0 2.0
Burdekin 74.3 94.7 16.8 1.0
Don 81.8 98.5 10.5 0.4
Haughton 81.7 97.6 10.0 0.8
Ross 81.6 95.7 10.7 2.3
Burdekin region 74.7 94.8 16.5 1.0

Groundcover changes over time

Graph data (.csv, 1 KB)

Graph data (.csv, 1 KB)

Graph data (.csv, 1 KB)

Groundcover in the Burdekin region fluctuates significantly over time. For example, in 1996 the mean late dry season groundcover was 49% while the following year it approached 80%.  Increases in the area with less than 50% groundcover correspond to lower mean annual rainfall. For example, in 1996 almost half of the area had groundcover less than 50% and the mean annual rainfall was 412mm, nearly 200mm less than the mean annual rainfall for the 23-year period of 610mm.

The Burdekin catchment had a 2010 mean groundcover level of 95%, exceeding the 23-year mean by 20%. This is the greatest difference between the 2010 mean groundcover and the 23-year mean groundcover of all the catchments in the Great Barrier Reef region.

Mackay Whitsunday

Groundcover

Late dry season groundcover for grazing lands was 98%. The 23-year mean statistics were calculated for the period 1987 to 2010 inclusive. 

Groundcover results for the Mackay Whitsunday region and catchments
Catchment/ region 23-year mean groundcover(%) 2010 mean groundcover(%) Percentage of regional area with less than 50% groundcover averaged over last 23 years (%) Percentage of regional area with less than 50% groundcover in 2010(%)
O’Connell 91.8 98.9 2.3 0.4
Pioneer 91.6 98.1 3.1 0.8
Plane Creek 90.6 95.8 3.6 1.5
Proserpine 88 97.9 5.4 1.3
Mackay Whitsunday region 90 97.9 3.8 1.0

Groundcover changes over time

Graph data (.csv, 1 KB)

Graph data (.csv, 1 KB)

Graph data (.csv, 1 KB)

During the past 23 years, the Mackay Whitsunday region has had consistently high mean annual groundcover levels of 90%, with a minimum level of 75% in 1991.  The greatest area with groundcover less than 50% was 11%, also in 1991. The Mackay Whitsunday region is the wettest of the regions reported (1410mm mean annual rainfall).

Fitzroy

Groundcover

Late dry season groundcover for grazing lands was 94%. This is mostly due to high rainfall during recent years.

The Fitzroy catchment constitutes 95% of the reporting area for the region. The 23-year mean statistics were calculated for the period 1987 to 2010 inclusive.

Groundcover results for the Fitzroy region and catchments
Catchment/ region 23-year mean groundcover(%) 2010 mean groundcover(%) Percentage of regional area with less than 50% groundcover averaged over last 23 years (%) Percentage of regional area with less than 50% groundcover in 2010(%)
Boyne (Gladstone) 88.2 97.5 3.4 0.9
Calliope 86.2 97.4 5.7 0.6
Fitzroy 79.9 93.4 9.4 0.9
Shoalwater 84.1 91.5 6.8 4.2
Styx 79.8 92.7 11.2 1.1
Water Park Creek 86.8 92.2 6.0 4.8
Fitzroy region 80.1 93.5 9.3 1.0

Groundcover changes over time

Graph data (.csv, 1 KB)

Graph data (.csv, 1 KB)

Graph data (.csv, 1 KB)

Mean annual late dry season ground cover in the Fitzroy region fluctuates considerably. For example, groundcover was as low as 64% in 1994 and as high as 92% in 1999 – the 23-year mean is 80%. Groundcover was at its highest for the 23 year period in 2010. Declines in groundcover correspond with increases in the area with cover under 50%.

These declines also correspond to below average rainfall in preceding years. For example, in 1994, the area with groundcover below 50% was almost 26% and the mean annual rainfall had been declining since 1989. The annual rainfall was 420mm, more than 200mm lower than the region’s mean annual rainfall for 1987 to 2010.

Burnett Mary

Groundcover

Late dry season groundcover for grazing lands was 95%.

The 23-year mean statistics were calculated for the period 1987 to 2010 inclusive.

Groundcover results for the Burnett Mary region and catchments
Catchment/ region 23-year mean groundcover(%) 2010 mean groundcover(%) Percentage of regional area with less than 50% groundcover averaged over last 23 years (%) Percentage of regional area with less than 50% groundcover in 2010(%)
Baffle 92.8 97.8 1.6 0.6
Burnett 86.3 94.2 4.8 0.7
Burrum 88.7 93 5.5 4.1
Kolan 91.1 96.2 2.0 1.3
Mary 92.2 96.7 1.9 0.4
Burnett Mary region 87.3 94.6 4.3 0.8

Groundcover changes over time

Graph data (.csv, 2 KB)

Graph data (.csv, 2 KB)

Graph data (.csv, 2 KB)

Over the past 23 years, the Burnett Mary region has had a consistently high mean annual groundcover of 87%, with a minimum of 73% in 1991. The highest level of cover was 96% in 2008. The greatest area with groundcover less than 50% was 14%, also in 1991. Mean annual rainfall for the Burnett Mary region, over the period 1987 to 2010, is approximately 750mm.

Last updated:
27 August, 2014
Last reviewed:
21 May, 2013

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