Condition of aquatic ecosystem health

N.B. you are viewing the archived 2015 report.

Return to the current 2017 report.

Key finding

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

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 the pristine 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.

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

The report card grades vary significantly across different catchments as some are in good condition while others have been heavily affected by rural and urban land use. 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, blocking out light for animal and plant life, smothering seagrass and damaging water treatment plants.

Overall the report card shows main causes of poor waterway health are:

  • sediment runoff from urban areas
  • long-term loss of riparian or riverbank vegetation.

The long-term trend of Moreton Bay health shows that it is in ‘fair’ to ‘good condition’. It has been impacted by major flood events in 2011 and 2013 but shows some positive signs of recovery. In 2015, Moreton Bay zones were found to be in ‘good’ or ‘excellent’ environmental condition and to support recreational activities.

More information:

Great Barrier Reef report card

The Great Barrier Reef Report Card reports on progress toward water quality and catchment management targets identified in the Reef Water Quality Protection Plan. Water quality models are used to evaluate links between changes in land management practices and water quality; monitoring at 25 sites across the region validates the modelling. The report card provides an assessment of marine condition based on monitoring of various indicators of water quality, seagrass and coral health. Trends in these ecosystem health and resilience indicators provide an assessment of the overall health of the Reef.

The 2009 report card provided a baseline. Subsequent report cards have shown a positive trend toward water quality and land management targets. Progress toward different targets varies: some have already been met while others have some work yet to be done. Inshore marine condition is strongly influenced by severe weather, such as tropical cyclones and floods, which have impacted the region in recent years.

  • Inshore coral reefs continue to improve since 2011-2012 but remain in a poor condition overall
  • Inshore seagrass show signs of recovery in some regions, but remain in poor condition overall.

Marine condition takes a long time to respond to changes in land management practices. Water quality improvements are expected in the long-term, provided land management practice reforms continue.

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.

The report card provides an assessment of freshwater and estuarine condition based on the monitoring of indicators such as fish and bugs or nutrients that help measure the overall condition of its waterways. Information on drinking water safety is also included.

In the 2013-2014 report card, the overall grade improved from C to B.

  • Water quality for drinking is in ‘very good condition’.

Marine data was not available at the time of publication.

The long-term trend of the Fitzroy Basin has steadily improved.

Decreased long-term condition was reported for:

  • Callide
  • Comet
  • Fitzroy
  • Lower Dawson
  • Lower Isaac
  • Theresa
  • Upper Dawson
  • Upper Isaac.

Long-term condition improved for:

  • Connors
  • Estuary zone
  • Mackenzie
  • Nogoa.

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

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 as well as environmental grades for eight estuaries and five zones within 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 an economic performance and economic values for the economic result. It rated the harbour’s overall environmental condition as ‘satisfactory’: scores for different zones ranged from ‘poor’ to ‘good’.

Overall social results were satisfactory while economic results were ‘good’.

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

More information:

Mackay-Whitsunday report card

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

The pilot report card was based on available information and includes indicators of water quality for the environmental result, an assessment of social satisfaction and community values of waterways for the social result. Stewardship results for seven industries were also provided.

The report card grades vary across different reporting zones: some are in ‘good’ condition while others have been more heavily impacted by rural and coastal land use.

More information:

Condamine Catchment report card

The Condamine Catchment Report Card 2013 rated the overall condition of the catchment as ‘good’ (B), 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’.

More information:

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.

More information:

QCatchment Paroo

Conceptual models are used to determine catchment specific condition indicators based on the relevant pressures in the catchment.

Key threats identified for 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.

More information:

QCatchment Warrego

Conceptual models are used to determine catchment specific condition indicators based on the relevant pressures in the catchment.

Key threats identified for Warrego 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 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.

More information:

QCatchment Nebine

Conceptual models are used to determine catchment specific indicators based on the relevant pressures in the catchment.

Key threats identified for 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.

More information:

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 were:

  • introduced riparian fauna
  • introduced riparian flora
  • a 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 to provide a ranking.

More information:

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 area and Bulloo catchment were:

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

* Riparian zone is the vegetation on the banks of the river.

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.

  • Both feral pig and cattle damage to waterhole banks and riparian zones was found to be widespread in 2013. Few sites were unaffected.

Despite the spread of introduced aquatic fauna in the Georgina and Cooper (ranked as ‘slightly disturbed’), the Bulloo and Diamantina rivers were in good condition with 100% native species.

  • A diverse and abundant native fish community is 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.

More information:

Indicator: Condition of aquatic ecosystem health

Condition of aquatic 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: Water quality assessment summary.

Healthy Waterways South East Queensland report card

Report card does not provide an overall grade.

See also: Water quality assessment summary.

Fitzroy Basin report card

Overall grade applies to freshwater and estuarine ecosystem health only.

See also: Water quality assessment summary.

Gladstone Harbour report card

Overall grade applies to estuarine and marine ecosystem health only.

See also: Water quality assessment summary.

Mackay-Whitsunday report card

Report card does not provide an overall grade.

See also: Water quality assessment summary.

Condamine Catchment report card

Overall grade applies to freshwater ecosystem health only.

See also: Water quality assessment summary.

QCatchment Bulloo

Overall grade applies to freshwater ecosystem health only.

See also: Water quality assessment summary.

QCatchment Paroo

Overall grade applies to freshwater ecosystem health only.

See also: Water quality assessment summary.

QCatchment Warrego

Overall grade applies to freshwater ecosystem health only.

See also: Water quality assessment summary.

QCatchment Nebine

Overall grade applies to freshwater ecosystem health only.

See also: Water quality assessment summary.

QCatchment Wet Tropics

Report card does not provide an overall grade.

See also: Water quality assessment summary.

QCatchment Lake Eyre

Report card does not provide an overall grade.

See also: Water quality assessment summary.

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