Condition of riverine ecosystem health

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Queensland

Waterways in Queensland are in widely varying condition. Some rivers 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 riverine environments while working 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.

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

The condition of freshwater rivers as shown through report card grades varies significantly across different catchments. Some are in ‘good’ condition while others fail to meet set ecosystem health criteria because they have been heavily affected by land use and development.

Historic and current land management practices have led to a loss of riparian, or riverbank, vegetation as land has been cleared to make way for agriculture and urban development.

Riparian vegetation provides shade for streams helping to regulate temperature supporting freshwater habitat. Riparian vegetation also filters out pollutants such as nutrients and sediments, preventing them from entering waterways.

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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 wetlands and riparian vegetation every four years and annual changes in ground cover.

There was a loss of 330ha (less than 0.1%) of natural wetland extent across the Great Barrier Reef catchment between 2009 and 2013. Rates of wetland loss between 2009 and 2013 were lower in most regions than for previous periods.

Overall loss of vegetated freshwater swamps has continued since 2001, but at a slowing rate in most regions. Their extent declined by 59ha (less than 0.1%) between 2009 and 2013 across the Great Barrier Reef catchment. There was a small increase in the rate of loss of vegetated freshwater swamps in the Fitzroy catchment between 2009 and 2013 compared to 2005 to 2009.

The Fitzroy and Burnett Mary regions had the highest proportional loss of wetlands between 2009 and 2013 (0.1%).

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Fitzroy Basin report card

The Fitzroy Basin Report Card reports on the condition of the catchments within the Fitzroy Basin. This basin is the largest on the east coast of Australia.

In the 2013–2014 report card, the overall grade improved from C (Fair) to B (Good).

The long-term trend of the Fitzroy Basin has seen a steady improvement in condition. The long-term condition of Callide, Comet, Fitzroy, Lower Dawson, Lower Isaac, Theresa, Upper Dawson and Upper Isaac decreased, while the long-term condition of Connors, Estuary Zone, Mackenzie and Nogoa increased.

Since the 2012–2013 release, the report card has also included information on drinking water safety, showing that water quality for drinking is in ‘very good’ condition.

The report card provides an assessment of freshwater conditions based on the monitoring of indicators. Freshwater indicators categories include physical/chemical, nutrients, toxicants and ecology which contribute 40%, 10%, 25% and 25% respectively to the overall catchment score. Some catchments had no ecology data, in which case physical/chemical, nutrients, and toxicants contribute 53.3%, 13.3% and 33.3% respectively.

Waterway condition takes a long time to respond to management practice changes and is also influenced by natural changes such as varying rainfall between years.

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Gladstone Harbour report card

Freshwater ecosystems not analysed in report card publication.

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Mackay-Whitsunday report card

The Mackay–Whitsunday Healthy Rivers to Reef Pilot Report Card reports on environmental and social indicators, as well as the region’s industry stewardship. The pilot report card provides environmental grades for five freshwater basins, eight estuaries, five inshore marine zones and one offshore marine zone.

Overall grades for the basins ranged from B (Good) to D (Poor). The Pioneer and Plane received a D grade, the Don and Proserpine a C and the O’Connell a B. Habitat and hydrology ranged from ‘moderate to poor’ with wetland extent contributing the lowest score in most instances. Water quality data is only available for three of the five basins, the O’Connell, Pioneer and Plane, based on 2013–2014 data.

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Condamine Catchment report card

The Condamine Catchment Report Card 2013 rated the overall condition of the catchment as B (Good), with most indicators meeting guidelines or benchmark values.

Water, Land and Wildlife were all ranked as ‘good’, and progress to targets (People) was ranked as 'fair’.

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QCatchment Bulloo

Conceptual models are used to determine catchment specific condition indicators based on the relevant pressures in the catchment. Key threats identified for the Bulloo catchment were

  • introduced aquatic fauna
  • deposited sediment
  • introduced riparian vegetation.

Indicators of ecosystem condition relevant to these threats were assessed where possible.

Overall the condition of riverine ecosystems in the Bulloo in 2012 was ranked as ‘slightly disturbed’.

Introduced aquatic fauna was ranked as ‘good’ condition with no exotic fish or crayfish found during monitoring.

Deposited sediment was ranked as ‘good’ condition with no loss of waterhole persistence from sediment deposition (sediment settling to the bottom of waterholes) in the waterholes surveyed.

Introduced riparian fauna was ranked as ‘slightly disturbed’ with some physical damage to waterhole banks observed from feral pigs and cattle.

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QCatchment Paroo

Conceptual models are used to determine catchment specific condition indicators based on the relevant pressures in the catchment. Key threats identified for the Paroo catchment were:

  • introduced aquatic fauna
  • deposited sediment
  • introduced riparian vegetation.

Indicators of ecosystem condition relevant to these threats were assessed where possible.

Overall the condition of riverine ecosystems in the Paroo in 2012 was ranked as ‘moderately disturbed’.

Introduced aquatic fauna was ranked as in ‘severe’ condition with European carp caught at all assessment sites and goldfish at most assessment sites.

Deposited sediment was ranked as in ‘good’ condition with no loss of waterhole persistence from sediment deposition (sediment settling to the bottom of waterholes) in waterholes surveyed.

Introduced riparian fauna was ranked as in ‘slightly disturbed’ condition with some physical damage to waterhole banks observed from feral pigs and cattle.

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QCatchment Warrego

Conceptual models are used to determine catchment specific condition indicators based on the relevant pressures in the catchment. Key threats for the Warrego catchment relevant were:

  • introduced aquatic fauna
  • deposited sediment
  • introduced riparian vegetation.

Indicators of ecosystem condition relevant to these threats were assessed where possible.

Overall the condition of riverine ecosystems in the Warrego in 2012 was ranked as ‘moderately disturbed’.

Introduced aquatic fauna was ranked as in ‘moderate’ condition with high carp biomass (weight) recorded at many sites.

Deposited sediment was ranked as in ‘moderate’ condition, the persistence of waterholes over time was impacted at two sites by deposited sediment (sediment settling to the bottom of waterholes).

Introduced riparian fauna was ranked as in ‘slightly disturbed’ condition with some physical damage to water banks from feral pigs and cattle.

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QCatchment Nebine

Conceptual models are used to determine catchment specific indicators based on the relevant pressures in the catchment. Key threats identified for the Nebine catchment were:

  • introduced aquatic fauna
  • deposited sediment
  • introduced riparian vegetation.

Overall the condition of riverine ecosystems in the Nebine in 2012 was ranked as ‘moderately disturbed’.

Introduced aquatic fauna was ranked as in ‘moderate’ condition, bordering on ‘severe’ condition, with a high proportion of exotic fish (mostly European carp) caught at most assessment sites.

Deposited sediment was ranked as in ‘good’ condition with no loss of waterhole persistence from sediment deposition (sediment settling to the bottom of waterholes) in waterholes surveyed.

Introduced riparian fauna was ranked as in ‘slightly disturbed’ condition with some physical damage to water banks from feral pigs and cattle.

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QCatchment Wet Tropics

Conceptual models are used to determine catchment specific indicators based on the relevant pressures in the catchment. Key threats identified in the Wet Tropics catchment were:

  • introduced riparian fauna
  • introduced riparian flora
  • reduction of low flow discharge
  • riparian habitat disturbance
  • lateral connectivity disturbance
  • introduced instream flora.

No overall score was provided for the Wet Tropics, however most sites in 2009 were in ‘slightly disturbed’ or ‘good’ condition.

Introduced riparian fauna was ranked as ‘moderately disturbed’ which correlates to surveys showing that feral pigs are common and widespread across the Wet Tropics with patches of high local abundance.

Riparian flora (weeds) was ranked as ‘moderately disturbed’. Previous riparian surveys have rated catchments of the Wet Tropics in ‘poor’ condition because of the presence of weeds. Weeds can influence the local microclimate, change the instream habitat and food resources, which may affect the presence and abundance of aquatic biota.

All other threats assessed had ‘slightly disturbed’ condition scores, with the exception of connectivity disturbance, for which there was insufficient information at the province scale to provide a ranking.

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QCatchment Lake Eyre

Conceptual models are used to determine catchment specific condition indicators based on the relevant pressures in the catchment. Key threats in the Lake Eyre and Bulloo catchments were:

  • introduced riparian fauna
  • introduced aquatic fauna
  • introduced riparian weeds.

Indicators of ecosystem condition relevant to these threats were assessed where possible.

No overall condition score was provided for the Lake Eyre and Bulloo Province and no condition indicators were measured for introduced riparian fauna, however both feral pig and cattle damage to waterhole banks and riparian zones was found to be widespread in 2013 with few sites unaffected by these introduced animals.

Despite the spread of introduced aquatic fauna in the Georgina and Cooper (ranked as ‘slightly disturbed’), the Bulloo and Diamantina were in ‘good’ condition with 100% native species. There is still a diverse and abundant native fish community in place across the province.

No condition indicators were measured for introduced riparian weeds, however all catchments in the Lake Eyre and Bulloo Province were assessed as being at moderate risk of riparian weed disturbance, based on the types of land use surrounding waterholes.

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Indicator: Condition of riverine ecosystem health

Condition of riverine 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: Freshwater wetland ecosystems assessment summary.

Healthy Waterways South East Queensland report card

Report card does not provide an overall grade.

See also: Freshwater wetland ecosystems assessment summary.

Fitzroy Basin report card

Overall grade applies to freshwater and estuarine ecosystem health only.

See also: Freshwater wetland ecosystems assessment summary.

Gladstone Harbour report card

Freshwater ecosystems not analysed in report card publication.

See also: Freshwater wetland ecosystems assessment summary.

Mackay-Whitsunday report card

Report card does not provide an overall grade.

See also: Freshwater wetland ecosystems assessment summary.

Condamine Catchment report card

See also: Freshwater wetland ecosystems assessment summary.

QCatchment Warrego

See also: Freshwater wetland ecosystems assessment summary.

QCatchment Wet Tropics

Report card does not provide an overall grade.

See also: Freshwater wetland ecosystems assessment summary.

QCatchment Lake Eyre

Report card does not provide an overall grade.

See also: Freshwater wetland ecosystems assessment summary.

Report card grades in Healthy Waterways South East Queensland report card

No data available for this region.

Report card grades in Great Barrier Reef 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 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