Condition of estuarine ecosystem health

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Key finding

Queensland's estuarine aquatic ecosystems vary significantly in condition. Some are in good to very good condition while others do not meet standards for water quality.

Queensland

Waterways in Queensland are in widely varying condition. Some estuaries are nearly untouched while others have been heavily impacted by historic land uses, development and poor land management practices. It is important that we protect estuarine environments while we work to rehabilitate and restore degraded areas.

Healthy Waterways South East Queensland report card

The Healthy Waterways Report Card reports on indicators of freshwater, estuarine and marine health across 19 major catchment areas in South East Queensland (SEQ).

Queensland Government scientists collect water quality samples to measure a range of indicators. Indicators such as algae or nutrients are aspects of an estuary that can be measured to help assess the overall condition of the waterway.

The report card grades vary significantly across different estuaries: some are in ‘good’ condition while others are in ‘poor’ condition, heavily affected by land use and development. None of the waterways failed the environmental condition grade.

Historic and current land management practices have led to substantial erosion meaning that sediment or mud is flowing into waterways. Sediment can make water cloudy, block out light for animal and plant life, and smother seagrass.

Overall the report card shows that sediment is the major factor affecting the condition of SEQ estuaries.

More information:

Great Barrier Reef report card

The Great Barrier Reef Report Card reports on progress toward water quality and catchment indicator targets identified in the Reef Water Quality Protection Plan. Catchment indicators reported on include changes in the extent of estuarine wetlands (mangroves and salt flats) every four years.

The loss of mangroves/salt flats was 296ha (less than 0.1%) between 2009 and 2013, significantly more than the 60ha lost (less than 0.1%) between 2005 and 2009. The only catchment that recorded loss of more than 1% of its mangroves/salt flats between 2009 and 2013 was the Calliope catchment (3.6%).

Over 90% of pre-European extent of mangroves and salt flats remain in most catchments, except for the Barron, Mulgrave, Russell, Pioneer, Boyne, Fitzroy, Shoalwater, Burnett and Kolan catchments.

More information:

Fitzroy Basin report card

The Fitzroy Basin Report Card reports on freshwater and estuarine health of the catchments within the Fitzroy Basin, the largest on the east coast of Australia.

Estuarine health is measured across three categories:

  • physical/chemical
  • nutrient
  • ecology.

Fitzroy Basin’s estuarine condition grades have steadily improved from 2010-2011 and the overall condition in 2013-2014 was better than 2012-2013 reporting:

  • Scores increased for physical/chemical indicators.
  • Scores increased for nutrient indicators, except for oxidised nitrogen.
  • Scores decreased for ecology indicators, except for barramundi.

The report card has included information on drinking water safety, showing that water quality for drinking is in ‘very good’ condition.

More information:

Gladstone Harbour report card

The Gladstone Harbour Report Card reports on the environmental, social, economic and cultural health of the Gladstone Harbour. The report card provides an overall grade for these elements and provides environmental grades for eight estuaries that flow to Gladstone Harbour.

The pilot report card released in 2014 was based on available information and included indicators of water quality for the environmental result, an assessment of harbour usability, harbour access and liveability for the social result and economic performance and economic values for the economic result.

The pilot report card found that overall the harbour's environmental health is a C (satisfactory).

Estuarine condition is predominantly D (poor) or C (satisfactory) with the exception of Graham Creek on Curtis Island which received a B (good).

The first full report card released in February 2016 included a more comprehensive suite of indicators. The overall environmental health for the harbour remained a C (satisfactory).

More information:

Mackay-Whitsunday report card

The pilot report card for Mackay–Whitsunday Area estuary scores was based on 2014–2015 data.

Estuaries that recorded an overall B (good) score were:

  • Gregory River
  • Vines Creek
  • Carmila Creek.

Estuaries that recorded an overall C (moderate) score were:

  • Rocky Dam Creek
  • O’Connell River
  • Murray and St Helens Creek
  • Plane Creek.

Sandy Creek scored a D (poor).

Habitat and hydrology scores ranged from ‘good to poor’. Riparian extent had the greatest variability of scores ranging from ‘very good’ for three estuaries to ‘very poor’ for two estuaries.

Water quality overall score was A (very good) for:

  • Vines Creek

Water quality overall score was B (good) for:

  • Gregory and O’Connell rivers
  • Murray and St Helens, Plane and Carmila creeks.

Water quality overall score was C (moderate) for:

  • Sandy and Rocky Dam creeks.

Both Sandy and Rocky Dam creeks scored ‘very poor’ for contaminants. Sandy, Rocky Dam and Carmila creeks are strongly influenced by tidal movement, and have naturally high turbidity.

More information:

Condamine Catchment report card

Estuarine ecosystems not analysed in report card publication.

More information:

QCatchment Bulloo

Estuarine ecosystems not analysed in report card publication.

More information:

QCatchment Paroo

Estuarine ecosystems not analysed in report card publication.

More information:

QCatchment Warrego

Estuarine ecosystems not analysed in report card publication.

More information:

QCatchment Nebine

Estuarine ecosystems not analysed in report card publication.

More information:

QCatchment Wet Tropics

Estuarine ecosystems not analysed in report card publication.

More information:

QCatchment Lake Eyre

Estuarine ecosystems not analysed in report card publication.

More information:

Indicator: Condition of estuarine ecosystem health

Condition of estuarine ecosystem health identified in various water quality report card areas across Queensland.

Great Barrier Reef report card

Overall grade applies to marine ecosystem health only.

See also: Estuarine and marine ecosystems assessment summary.

Healthy Waterways South East Queensland report card

Report card does not provide an overall grade.

See also: Estuarine and marine ecosystems assessment summary.

Fitzroy Basin report card

Overall grade applies to freshwater and estuarine ecosystem health only.

See also: Estuarine and marine ecosystems assessment summary.

Gladstone Harbour report card

Overall grade applies to estuarine and marine ecosystem health only.

See also: Estuarine and marine ecosystems assessment summary.

Mackay-Whitsunday report card

Report card does not provide an overall grade.

See also: Estuarine and marine ecosystems assessment summary.

Condamine Catchment report card

Estuarine ecosystems not analysed in report card publication.

See also: Estuarine and marine ecosystems assessment summary.

QCatchment Bulloo

Estuarine ecosystems not analysed in report card publication.

See also: Estuarine and marine ecosystems assessment summary.

QCatchment Paroo

Estuarine ecosystems not analysed in report card publication.

See also: Estuarine and marine ecosystems assessment summary.

QCatchment Warrego

Estuarine ecosystems not analysed in report card publication.

See also: Estuarine and marine ecosystems assessment summary.

QCatchment Nebine

Estuarine ecosystems not analysed in report card publication.

See also: Estuarine and marine ecosystems assessment summary.

QCatchment Wet Tropics

Estuarine ecosystems not analysed in report card publication.

See also: Estuarine and marine ecosystems assessment summary.

QCatchment Lake Eyre

Estuarine ecosystems not analysed in report card publication.

See also: Estuarine and marine ecosystems assessment summary.

Report card grades in Healthy Waterways South East Queensland report card

No data available for this region.

Report card grades in Fitzroy Basin report card

No data available for this region.

Report card grades in Gladstone Harbour report card

No data available for this region.

Report card grades in Mackay-Whitsunday report card

No data available for this region.

Report card grades in Condamine Catchment report card

No data available for this region.

Report card grades in QCatchment Bulloo

No data available for this region.

Report card grades in QCatchment Paroo

No data available for this region.

Report card grades in QCatchment Warrego

No data available for this region.

Report card grades in QCatchment Nebine

No data available for this region.

Report card grades in QCatchment Wet Tropics

No data available for this region.

Report card grades in QCatchment Lake Eyre

No data available for this region.

Download data from Queensland Government data