Terrestrial ecosystems are the community of living organisms and the non-living environmental features that support them.
Freshwater wetland ecosystems
Queensland’s freshwater ecosystems or wetlands are important habitats.
Estuarine and marine ecosystems
Queensland’s estuarine and marine ecosystems (wetlands) support much of the state’s native biodiversity, including migratory birds, dugongs, dolphins, turtles, and fish.
Species and habitat
Queensland’s native plants (flora) and animals (fauna) are unique and valuable elements of our state’s rich biodiversity.
An Introduction to Biodiversity in the Queensland State of the Environment Report
Management responses are the actions or initiatives undertaken to protect, maintain and restore environmental assets, as well as those that prevent, mitigate or adapt to changes in the environment. They are generally developed in reaction to the observed or anticipated pressures and impacts, or the state of the environment. They act in a multitude of ways, either individually or, more often, in concert with one another to bring about environmental change.
Applicable management responses related to biodiversity include:
All Queenslanders have a ‘general biosecurity obligation’ (GBO) under Queensland's Biosecurity Act 2014.
This means that everyone is responsible for managing biosecurity risks that are:
- under their control
- that they know about or should reasonably be expected to know about.
Under the GBO, individuals and organisations whose activities pose a biosecurity risk must:
- take all reasonable and practical steps to prevent or minimise each biosecurity risk
- minimise the likelihood of causing a ‘biosecurity event’, and limit the consequences if such an event is caused
- prevent or minimise the harmful effects a risk could have, and not do anything that might make any harmful effects worse.
Under the Environmental Offsets Act 2014, an environmental offset is defined as an activity undertaken to counterbalance a significant residual impact of a prescribed environmental matter. Unlike mitigation actions which occur on-site as part of the project and reduce the direct impact of that project, offsets are undertaken at another location which contains the same environmental values.
Key features of the environmental offsets framework, include:
- the option to meet an offset obligation by means of a financial payment to a secured offsets fund, managed by the Department of Environment and Science (DES) and used to deliver strategic outcomes with the assistance of an independent committee.
- staging offset delivery for larger projects to ensure significant residual impacts are counterbalanced, by allowing offset credits or debits to be carried over to later stages of the project.
- mapping Strategic Offset Investment Corridors (SOICs), which identify some of the best places in the landscape for environmental offsets.
- a confidential record of landholders interested in having offsets on their land.
A single dataset is available for all offsets approved since 1 July 2014 in the form of an offsets register, maintained by DES and publicly available on the Queensland Government’s website. This register includes information on all permits that have been granted with an offset condition, as well as specific details on financial payments, land based offsets and advanced offsets, all of which are updated on a quarterly basis.
Queensland has 72 declared fish habitat areas (FHA) along its coast. These areas are declared under the Fisheries Act 1994 and protect more than 1,200,000ha of high-quality fish habitat. This network provides long-term protection from the physical impacts associated with coastal development — essential for sustaining recreational, commercial and indigenous fisheries.
The Declared FHA Network Strategy 2015–2020 sets the direction for the future of the FHA network under 3 broad initiatives — consolidate the FHA network; reinforce FHA management; and strengthen FHA policy.
Declared FHA Network Assessment Reports document the status of the declared FHA network every 5 years. Assessment criteria are based on the aims of the Declared FHA Network Strategy. The first report was published in 2012 and found that the network was generally in good condition. The second report found that in 2017 the network continued to provide effective protection to key fish habitats and had been expanded by 49,500ha.
FHA legislation is supported by operational policies for the management of FHAs, and for the selection, assessment, declaration and review of FHAs. There is also a statutory Code of Practice for pest control in FHAs.
The primary objective of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Act 1975 is to provide for the long term protection and conservation of the environment, biodiversity and heritage values of the Great Barrier Reef Region. The Act provides for the establishment of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority and a framework for the planning and management of the Marine Park through zoning plans, plans of management and a system of permissions.
Subordinate to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Act 1975, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Zoning Plan 2003 is the primary planning instrument for the conservation and management of the Marine Park. The Zoning Plan takes account of the world heritage values of the Marine Park and aims, along with other management mechanisms, to conserve the biodiversity of the Great Barrier Reef ecosystem within a network of highly protected zones, and provide opportunities for the ecologically sustainable use of the Reef and access to the Great Barrier Reef Region by current and future generations.
The Marine Parks Act 2004 (the Act) provides for the conservation of Queensland’s marine environment by implementing a comprehensive range of management strategies including the declaration of marine parks and the establishment of zones and designated areas, including highly protected areas within marine parks. These management arrangements are formalised through the gazettal of zoning plans and in some instances the development of management plans.
The Act aims to achieve a coordinated and integrated approach with other environmental conservation legislation, and recognises the cultural, economic, environmental and social relationships between marine parks and their adjacent lands and waters.
Australia’s international responsibilities and intergovernmental agreements are important considerations in park management. Marine parks extend across areas adjacent to the Queensland coast which are under the control of both the Commonwealth and State governments. Both governments have agreed that, as far as practicable, in managing marine parks, state legislation will be consistent with the relevant Commonwealth legislation. This is critical in the Great Barrier Reef region where complementary measures support the management of this significant area.
Marine parks are multiple-use areas providing for a range of activities and visitor opportunities, for example fishing, tourism, education, research and some structures. The zoning plans prescribed under the Act spell out the types of uses and management measures.
Three marine parks have been declared under the Act with corresponding zoning plans established—Great Barrier Reef Coast Marine Park, Great Sandy Marine Park and the Moreton Bay Marine Park. Along with the Commonwealth Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, 99% of the east coast of Queensland currently sits within a marine park.
Each marine park has a zoning plan which is reviewed every 10 years to ensure that the management arrangements in place are the most appropriate to conserve the marine environment while allowing for sustainable use. The zoning plan for the Great Sandy Marine Park is currently being reviewed.
The Nature Conservation Act 1992 (the Act) provides the legislative basis for the conservation of nature through the dedication, declaration and management of protected areas and the protection of native wildlife and its habitat.
As at 30 June 2020, there were 9,791,208ha of State land and Aboriginal freehold land included in 9 national parks (scientific), 275 national parks, 28 national parks (Cape York Peninsula Aboriginal land), 234 conservation parks and 47 resources reserves in Queensland. Dedication of these lands provides a high level of protection for species and the ecosystems upon which they rely within the 13 terrestrial bioregions in the state. Additionally, 4,474,340ha of nature refuges—which are protected areas declared over private land with landowner consent—further adds to the conservation protection of lands across the state.
The Act provides the legislative framework to manage these areas so that their natural and cultural values are protected and conserved while recognising other compatible uses.
Similarly, outside of protected areas, the majority of native plants and animals are protected under the Act, so that they are managed under a legislative framework designed to promote the continuation of viable and sustainable populations in the wild.
Specific tools for managing protected areas, and for managing wildlife outside of protected areas, include park management plans and statements, regulatory notices, protected area permits and other authorities, licences and permits for the taking or use of wildlife, and individual conservation plans or recovery plans for species with particular needs.
The Nature Conservation and Other Legislation (Koala Protection) Amendment Regulation 2020 commenced on 7 February 2020 and amended the Environmental Offsets Regulation 2014, Nature Conservation (Koala) Conservation Plan 2017, Planning Regulation 2017 and Vegetation Management Regulation 2012 to deliver better conservation outcomes for koalas in South East Queensland.
This new planning framework will deliver a more strategic and consistent approach to koala conservation across local government boundaries, supporting delivery of a key initiative outlined in the draft South East Queensland Koala Conservation Strategy 2019 – 2024, and providing certainty to landholders and industry.
Changes to the planning framework include the introduction of Koala Priority Areas, which are large, connected areas that include koala habitat as well as areas that are suitable for habitat restoration. Under the planning changes, the clearing of koala habitat areas within Koala Priority Areas is prohibited.
For proposed developments that do not involve clearing of koala habitat but are within Koala Priority Areas, the Queensland Government has introduced new assessment benchmarks that consider koala conservation within project proposals.
Outside of Koala Priority Areas, the State Government assumes responsibility for assessing developments that propose the clearing of koala habitat areas against a new State assessment code.
The Convention on Wetlands of International Importance, commonly referred to as the Ramsar Convention, is an intergovernmental treaty that provides the framework for national action and international cooperation for the conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources.
Queensland has 5 Ramsar sites.
The EPBC Act establishes a framework for protecting and managing Ramsar wetlands in Australia. Australian Ramsar management principles cover matters relevant to the preparation of Ramsar site management plans, including community consultation processes.
Queensland is responsible for the nomination of Ramsar sites and the development and maintenance of documentation for the sites. Queensland is also responsible to ensuring the maintenance of the Ecological Character of the sites and notification of any changes or likely changes to the Ecological Character of the sites.
Primary responsibility for managing wetlands and their associated flora and fauna is vested in the appropriate landholders/land managers. Individual local, state and territory governments have the primary legislative and policy responsibility for natural resource management.
The Vegetation Management Act 1999 regulates the clearing of vegetation in Queensland in a way that:
- conserves remnant vegetation
- ensures clearing does not cause land degradation
- prevents loss of biodiversity
- maintains ecological processes
- reduces greenhouse gas emissions
- allows for sustainable land use.
The 2015–16 Statewide Land Assessment and Tree Study (SLATS) report showed an increase in annual woody vegetation clearing rates from 298,000ha in 2014–15 to about 395,000ha in 2015–16.
The Queensland Government has delivered on its election commitment, as well as commitments under the Reef 2050 Long-Term Sustainability Plan (Reef 2050 Plan), to reinstate its nation leading vegetation management protections to increase the resilience of the Great Barrier Reef and reduce carbon emissions.
In March 2018, the Queensland Government strengthened Queensland’s vegetation management laws to increase protection for high-value regrowth and remnant vegetation and boost protection for important Habitats, including waterways leading to the Great Barrier Reef.
In addition to the amendments to the Vegetation Management Act 1999, the government has made further changes to the vegetation management framework by:
- releasing scientific updates to vegetation management maps
- updating accepted development vegetation clearing codes based on scientific advice from the Queensland Herbarium and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation
- revoking the relevant vegetation clearing code and area management plans so that managing thickened vegetation now requires a development approval.
Policy and Programs
BioCondition is a vegetation condition assessment framework used to measure how well a terrestrial ecosystem is functioning for the maintenance of biodiversity values. It is a site-based, quantitative and repeatable assessment procedure that provides a numeric score that can be classified as a condition rating of 1, 2, 3 or 4 representing functional (1) through to dysfunctional (4) condition for biodiversity.
Vegetation condition is defined as “… the relative capacity of a regional ecosystem to support a suite of species expected to occur in its reference state”. The reference state refers to the stable state of a regional ecosystem, incorporating the natural variability of key vegetation attributes, in ‘best-on-offer’ condition, or patches of vegetation that have been least impacted by local disturbances in the contemporary landscape.
BioCondition is used for environmental offsets to determine condition of an offset proposal and its potential biodiversity value, as well as in the assessment of mining rehabilitation and in environmental accounting. BioCondition benchmarks, which provide values for vegetation attributes of regional ecosystems in the reference state for each of the state’s currently recognised 1,459 regional ecosystems are being compiled for the framework: 480 are currently available. A program of work by the Queensland Herbarium and Remote Sensing Centre is currently in progress to develop a method to map the 4 vegetation condition states as a regional level.
Carbon farming involves activities like managing vegetation and savanna burning to store carbon or avoid the release of greenhouse gas emissions.
The Queensland Government is working to keep carbon in the ground through the $500 million Land Restoration Fund. Through its first Investment Round, $100 million was made available to projects that generate Australian carbon credit units with verifiable social, environmental, economic and regional development benefits.
This work builds on the existing Carbon Plus program, which is already delivering on-the ground outcomes in First Nations communities.
Estuarine crocodiles (Crocodylus porosus) are listed as vulnerable under the Nature Conservation Act 1992. They were nearly hunted to extinction in Queensland prior to 1974, and habitat destruction is now considered a major threat to their survival in Queensland. The Queensland Crocodile Management Plan, together with the Nature Conservation (Estuarine Crocodile) Conservation Plan 2007, provides Queensland’s strategic management framework to ensure the conservation of estuarine crocodiles in the wild, and reduce the risk to public safety. The purpose of these plans is to conserve viable populations in the wild, enhance public safety, prevent losses in the aquaculture industries from problem crocodiles, and ensure the commercial use of estuarine crocodiles is sustainable.
Queensland’s management approach also incorporates a 3-year monitoring and research program, which was completed in December 2019, a CrocWatch telephone and online service for reporting and investigating crocodile sightings, and a Crocwise public safety education campaign.
The 3-year scientific monitoring program will provide updated abundance and distribution data for the estuarine crocodile species across its range, and will be used to inform future management practices. DES is currently analysing the data and will prepare a comprehensive scientific report in consultation with the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Crocodile Specialist Group, which will be delivered in the second half of 2020.
In response to the unprecedented bushfire events in 2018 and 2019, the Queensland Government demonstrated a strong commitment to support bushfire management in our national parks and State forests, by allocating an additional $16 million over four years to the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service (QPWS) commencing in 2019–20.
Known as the Enhanced Fire Management Project, this funding is focused on increasing community safety by minimising bushfire risk to people and property from QPWS managed lands. The EFMP’s strategic objectives are aimed at improving the agency’s capacity to prevent risks to life and property from fires originating from the QPWS estate; having an agency adequately prepared and resourced for planned burn activities and bushfire; ensuring the agency has increased capacity to respond to fire in the landscape and ensure the QPWS estate can recover post-fire.
Through this project, the department has established a dedicated Enhanced Fire Team – the first of its kind for the department. The team is self-sufficient and mobile and comprised of fire management specialists whose sole focus is the delivery of priority strategic planned burns and bushfire suppression response capabilities in the south-east of the state. In addition, the team will promote greater collaborative arrangements with Queensland Fire and Emergency Services, First Nations groups, local government, and other land management agencies.
The state’s bushfire preparedness and fire management capability will also be bolstered through the purchase of 30 new G-Wagon light attack vehicles and three new medium-attack trucks, with purpose-built fire units. These vehicles will significantly enhance the firefighting fleet capacity of the department and represent an investment in fire preparedness and response by the Queensland Government.
Every 5 years, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority prepares an Outlook Report that provides an independent assessment of the health, condition, use, management arrangements and long-term outlook for the Reef.
The Outlook Report 2019 identifies the Reef is facing significant pressures ranging in scale from local to global.
In particular, the Outlook Report identifies initiatives to halt and reverse the effects of climate change at a global level and effectively improving water quality at a regional scale are the most urgent to improve the Reef’s long-term outlook.
The overall outlook for the Great Barrier Reef was rated ‘very poor’. This tells us that without urgent and effective additional management intervention, the Reef’s values are likely to deteriorate rapidly. However, this assessment is based on current Reef condition and its likely trajectory built on current work to address climate change and improve water quality. It does not reflect the potential success of additional efforts and investments that are underway. Every action taken to improve Reef health and reduce threats and impacts is critical.
The Environmental Protection (Water and Wetland Biodiversity) Policy 2019 (EPP Water and Wetland Biodiversity), subordinate legislation under the Environmental Protection Act 1994, establishes Healthy Waters Management Plans (HWMPs) as a key planning mechanism to improve the quality of Queensland waters. HWMPs identify environmental values, water quality objectives and catchment-based management actions through consultation and best available science. HWMPs have been developed for all Queensland Murray–Darling Basin catchments. For these catchments, the HWMPs not only fulfil requirements under the EPP Water and Wetland Biodiversity, but also Australian Government water quality planning provisions under the Basin Plan 2012. In 2016, the Warrego, Paroo, Bulloo and Nebine Basins HWMP was approved, with the Condamine HWMP, Queensland Border Rivers–Moonie HWMP and Maranoa–Balonne HWMP approved in 2019. These plans identify the key risks to water quality across the Queensland Murray–Darling Basin and highlight potential management responses to address the risks.
HWMPs are broader than ‘just water quality’ as they protect aquatic ecosystems through specifying water quality objectives for indicators such as macroinvertebrates, fish, riparian vegetation and groundcover. These plans are typically delivered through collaborative partnerships between the Queensland Government and regional Natural Resource Management (NRM) bodies.
For Great Barrier Reef (GBR) catchments, Water Quality Improvement Plans (WQIPs) have been developed, which perform a similar function to HWMPs. WQIPs were initially prepared by regional NRM bodies under the Australian Government’s Coastal Catchments Initiative, in consultation with the Queensland Government. WQIPs undertaken in GBR catchments use the monitoring and evaluation tools generated by the Paddock to Reef Program. For example, GBR catchment water quality modelling and monitoring is used to prioritise areas for on-ground investment in management improvements and to predict water quality improvements from proposed management options.
Through the Queensland Indigenous Land and Sea Ranger program, the Queensland Government partners with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities to care for biodiversity values and cultural heritage on country.
In 2020, the Queensland Government funded over 100 Indigenous land and sea rangers, employed through Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander host organisations across 24 communities.
Land and sea ranger activities include a variety of caring for country actions, with priorities determined in consultation with traditional owners and partner agencies. Activities include: weed and feral animal management; fire management; biodiversity surveys; cultural heritage site management and community engagement in conservation efforts through Junior Ranger and other local programs.
In 2019, Indigenous land and sea rangers:
- carried out fire management over more than 762,000ha of land
- completed more than 700 biodiversity surveys (including protected species)
- removed more than 4,500kg marine debris from Queensland foreshores
- removed more than 3,200 feral animals (predominantly pigs)
- actively managed more than 960 cultural sites
- treated more than 530,000ha of land for weeds
- engaged nearly 3,200 school-aged children in junior ranger activities.
Where priority invasive pest species have become established and it is no longer considered technically feasible to eradicate them, the management focus changes from eradication to containment or asset protection.
National pest eradication programs target the greatest invasive species threats that are considered feasible to eradicate, such as tropical weeds and Red Imported Fire Ants.
The Queensland Government has developed state-of-the-art koala habitat mapping using advanced modelling techniques and its expertise in statewide, comprehensive vegetation mapping. The new methodology integrates a species distribution model with the Queensland Herbarium’s regional ecosystem mapping and validated koala occurrence records, to produce a comprehensive map that ranks koala habitat values across South East Queensland.
The mapped koala habitat represents the best habitat for koalas, based on the combination of biophysical measures (including climate), suitable vegetation and koala occurrence records.
Linking the new koala habitat mapping with the Queensland Government’s existing vegetation and landcover mapping, and utilising a species model with koala sighting data, allows the new koala habitat modelling to be updated and refined as data becomes available. Vegetation and koala habitat maps will be updated annually, allowing the Queensland Government to continue to accurately identify the best quality koala habitat and track changes over time.
The koala (Phascolarctos cinereus) was listed as vulnerable to extinction in Queensland in 2015.
In response to evidence of a decline in the South East Queensland koala population, the Government undertook a review of koala conservation policies, led by an independent Koala Expert Panel. The Panel’s final report included recommendations for improving koala conservation measures.
The Panel emphasised the need for a coordinated and strategic approach for the conservation of koala, based on 6 key areas of action:
- strategic coordination
- habitat protection
- habitat restoration
- threat management
- community engagement
- improved mapping, monitoring, research, and reporting.
The Queensland Government accepted all recommendation. The Draft South East Queensland Koala Conservation Strategy 2019 – 2024 was released for an 8-week consultation period on 8 December 2019 and closed on 31 January 2020.
Early actions to implement the Panel’s recommendations include the formation of the Koala Advisory Council, new koala habitat mapping for South East Queensland and stronger planning reforms.
The final South East Queensland Koala Conservation Strategy was released in mid-2020.
The Landscape Fragmentation Connectivity tool performs a desktop assessment of development impacts on connectivity areas containing remnant vegetation. Connectivity areas are defined in Schedule 2 of the Environmental Offsets Regulation 2014.
The tool is a test for significant residual impacts on connectivity, a prescribed environmental matter under the Environmental Offsets Framework. It is also effective as a mechanism for quantifying the fragmentation of remnant regional ecosystems at the bioregion scale and has been adapted to map fragmentation for the State of the Environment Report.
A significant residual impact on connectivity by a prescribed activity is counterbalanced through the delivery of an offset in a non-remnant ecosystem. The outcome maintains overall ecosystem connectivity within the affected bioregion.
The MyRanger provides virtual guided tours of Springbrook National Park with information about the park and its wildlife, featured through interactive maps. Users can download this free app and obtain a deeper understanding of the variety of wildlife within the Park and why they are so unique. The downloadable maps allow users to locate park facilities, trails, tours and keep track of where they are located.
The Local (virtual) Rangers lead users on self-guided walking tours whilst providing insight into the park. The app details key information which users need to know to plan and make the most of their visit to the Park, including information on key natural and cultural heritage features, safety tips and accessibility. Alerts through the app provide the latest information on access, closures and conditions.
The National Landcare Program (NLP) is the Australian Government’s key natural resource management (NRM) investment. Comprised of 2 phases, the NLP includes a range of measures to support NRM, sustainable agriculture and protection of the Australian biodiversity.
The Australian Government in Phase 1 of the NLP invested $1 billion between 2014–15 and 2017–18 to support regional and national funding streams with the following objectives:
- communities are managing landscapes to sustain long-term economic and social benefits from their environment
- farmers and fishers are increasing their long term returns through better management of the natural resource base
- communities are involved in caring for their environment
- communities are protecting species and natural assets.
The funding provided support to Landcare Networks, 20 Million Trees, 56 regional NRM organisations and to local environmental and sustainable agriculture projects such as Reef 2050 implementation, the eradication of yellow crazy ants in North Queensland and Threatened Species Recovery Fund.
In Phase 2 of the NPL, the Australian Government is investing around $1 billion over a period of 5 years from 2018 to 2023. In this phase, the Australian Government is working in partnerships with governments, industry, communities and individuals to protect and conserve Australia’s water, soil, animals and ecosystems, as well as support the productive and sustainable use of these valuable resources. The funding will aim to address problems such as:
- loss of vegetation
- soil degradation
- introduction of pest weeds and animals
- changes in water quality and flow
- changes in fire regimes.
Included in this phase is the Regional Land Partnerships which will deliver $450 million worth of national priorities at a regional and local level. Under this program, the Government will support the delivery of 195 projects that aim to contribute to on-ground environmental and agricultural outcomes across the country to benefit the environment, farms and communities.
Additionally, $134 million has been allocated into the Smart Farms Program (Agriculture) to support the development and uptake of best practice management, tools and technology that help farmers, fishers, foresters and regional communities. This Program aims to improve the protection, resilience and productive capacity of our soils, water and vegetation and in turn support successful primary industries and regional communities.
The Queensland Government has allocated $61.77 million to the Natural Resource Investment Program over 4 years from 2018 to 2022 (NRIP 2018–22). This represents an extension of funding by the Queensland Government in regional natural resource management, building on the previous program - the Natural Resources Investment Program 2013–2018.
Administered by the Department of Natural Resources, Mines and Energy (DNRME), NRIP 2018–22 ensures that funding is invested into improving the quality of the state’s natural resources specifically land, vegetation, water and the Great Barrier Reef.
NRIP 2018–2022 funding is being invested in Queensland’s regional arrangements and aims to achieve measureable change in the management and condition of natural resources to build capacity in communities to deliver improved outcomes in the following 4 priority areas:
- Land: Building stable and resilient landscapes.
- Water: Achieving sustainable use and management of water.
- People and communities: Facilitating effective regional management and stewardship.
- Science and knowledge: Knowing the state of natural resource management assets and effectiveness of interventions.
Within these 4 priority areas, DNRME has now allocated more than $43 million to over 30 NRIP projects that commenced between July 2018 to June 2020. These include specific Reef Water Quality and Paddock to Reef projects as well as projects focussed on improving the condition of our natural resource assets. There are also a number of state-wide projects aimed at developing frameworks to produce natural resource indicators and the reporting of state-wide indicator data.
The Nest to Ocean Program undertakes predator control and turtle nest monitoring activities across 43 beaches covering 564 km of Queensland coastline. Additionally, 57 uninhabited islands in the Torres Strait has been surveyed for the endangered hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys imbricate) adding significantly to the known extent of nesting effort and success of hawksbill turtles in the Torres Strait.
Since its inception, the program has contributed to 31,244 turtle nests being monitored, the removal of 33,815 feral pigs, the direct protection of 397 nests and the fumigation of 363 fox dens. As a result, 27,437 turtle nests survived predation (approximately 81% of the monitored nests), producing 1.35 million turtle hatchlings. Studies of turtle nesting on Cape York in the late 1970s and early 1980s showed that feral pigs were responsible for predation of more than 70% of turtle nests. The Nest to Ocean Program has made a dramatic improvement to turtle hatchling survival in the past
4-6 years. The program has been supported by 148 Indigenous rangers who undertook predator control and nest monitoring.
The northern hairy-nosed wombat (Lasiorhinus krefftii) is listed as endangered under Queensland’s Nature Conservation Act 1992. Since European settlement, competition for food from introduced grazing animals, such as sheep, cattle and rabbits—particularly during droughts—is believed to have been the main reason for the rapid decline of the species.
In the 1980s it was estimated there were 35 northern hairy-nosed wombats remaining in a small area on Epping Forest National Park in Central Queensland. Since then, dedicated managers and scientists have worked hard to protect and increase the population, and have successfully established a translocated colony at Richard Underwood Nature Refuge near St George in south west Queensland.
At the last census in 2016, there was an estimated population of 240 northern hairy-nosed wombats at Epping Forest National Park. A recent birth at Richard Underwood Nature Refuge brings that colony’s population to 11, so it is estimated there are approximately 250 northern hairy-nosed wombats in the wild. This is a major improvement on the estimated 35 wombats remaining in the 1980s. The search continues to find more suitable habitat to create a third colony to help secure the future for this threatened species.
The Point Source Water Quality Offsets Policy 2019 describes how existing or potentially new environmental authority holders under the Environmental Protection Act 1994 (EP Act) can implement water quality offsets. Water quality offsets may be adopted as a voluntary option for managing environmentally relevant activities under the EP Act in situations where wastewater containing prescribed offset contaminants (nitrogen, phosphorus, and suspended solids) is dischargedinto receiving waters.
Examples of water quality offset investments include:
- riparian area restoration
- streambank and gully restoration
- constructed or remediated wetlands
- bioremediation technology (point source).
Water quality offset conditions apply under the policy to ensure an improvement is delivered to water quality in the receiving waters as a result of the alternative investment options.
The Private Protected Area Program (formerly Nature Refuges Program) has expanded to include a new class of private protected area, special wildlife reserves, after the passing of an amendment to the Nature Conservation Act 1992 in 2019. The program forms part of the Queensland Government’s commitment to saving habitat, protecting wildlife and restoring land.
Special wildlife reserves fill a gap in the available protected area classifications in Queensland by providing national park level protections to privately owned and managed land. Mining, timber harvesting and commercial grazing are not permitted on special wildlife reserves. Where such interests exist, they must first be resolved prior to the reserve’s declaration.
Nature refuges remain the cornerstone of the Private Protected Area Program. Nature Refuges are established through perpetual, legally binding agreements that protect areas of conservation-significance whilst allowing compatible and sustainable land uses to continue.
NatureAssist is a financial incentives program that targets properties that meet the Queensland Government’s priorities for the Private Protected Area Program. Properties have previously been selected for their significant conservation values, connectivity and/or their predicted resilience to a changing climate. The landholders of these identified properties are contacted by the government to ask if they are interested in participating. Private Protected Area Program staff work with landholders to protect significant conservation values on their land and enhance the resilience of the property. Participation is conditional on a formal conservation agreement being signed by the landholder and the Minister.
As at 30 June 2020, nature refuges comprised just over 2.5% of Queensland’s land area. To date no special wildlife reserves have been declared.
The Queensland Government partners with First Nations people to manage the protected area estate, in practical acknowledgement of the safe stewardship of Country by First Nations peoples for thousands of generations. Sharing management responsibility recognises the deep knowledge, skill and understanding of Country that is sustained by First Nations people, and their continuing rights and self-determined responsibilities to care for their land, sea and sky Country.
The Gurra Gurra Framework 2020–2026 was launched by the Department of Environment and Science in April 2020, reflecting the need for the Queensland Government to be inclusive, integrated and complete in our relationship with First Nations people. It will maximise First Nations agency through embedding both core principles and a program of work into the culture of the agency. It will empower First Nations people to lead or positively contribute to the cultural resurgence and revitalisation across the State.
Partnerships will continue to be built and new, enduring relationships created with First Nations peoples. Together we will identify opportunities for Traditional Owners to derive cultural and economic benefits from managing their country.
A range of formalised agreements including Indigenous Management Agreements, Indigenous Land Use Agreements and Memoranda of Understanding will continue to be implemented. A number of new arrangements will also be advanced including co-designing with First Nations people a Co-stewardship Framework, an Engagement Strategy and an Agreement Making Framework.
Partnerships will be flexible and responsive, and created on an understanding that Country and people need to be central in order to improve protected area management and deliver public value for all Queenslanders.
During 2018 and 2019 period, 3,450 hectares of land was purchased for addition to the protected area system. These acquisitions included three properties, the new Earl Hill Conservation Park (north of Cairns), the historic mining township of Dalrymple consolidating Dalrymple National Park (north of Charters Towers) and a significant addition to Mt Walsh National Park (west of Maryborough). The Mount Walsh acquisition will protect 3,392 hectares of habitat for numerous listed species and adding to a remnant vegetation tract that is one of the largest in the bioregion.
In addition, a landmark partnership between the Queensland Government, Noosa Shire Council, Noosa Parks Association and HQPlantations was announced to facilitate the phased transition of 2,400 hectares of Yurol and Ringtail State forests to protected area. In 2019, phase one of the transition saw the first 350 hectares of State forest transferred to Tewantin National Park.
Additions to the Queensland protected area system are made with the goal of maximising the protection and conservation of biodiversity. This includes the acquisition and dedication of properties as state-owned protected areas (e.g. national parks) and the negotiation of private protected areas on private land (e.g nature refuges).
Between January 2018 and June 2020, the extent of protected areas increased by 40,971ha, resulting in 8.24% of protected area coverage of Queensland’s landmass.
The management of invasive plants and animals is the shared responsibility of land managers, industry, the community and all levels of government. Shared responsibility is a cornerstone of the Queensland Biosecurity Strategy and the Queensland Invasive Plants and Animals Strategy 2019–2023.
The primary responsibility rests with those who deal with biosecurity matters — they must reduce the risks that their activities create. A nil-tenure approach that engages all relevant stakeholders is considered best practice, particularly for mobile species. Under this approach, control methods are applied in a collaborative and coordinated manner across all land tenures by all stakeholders at a landscape scale, rather than at an individual property scale.
The Queensland Government has committed to release and implement a Queensland Protected Area Strategy which will establish the future strategic direction for the state’s terrestrial protected areas, both public and private.
The Department of Environment and Science (DES) is developing the Strategy which will include key actions for sustainably expanding and effectively managing Queensland’s protected areas into the future.
The Reef 2050 Long-Term Sustainability Plan (Reef 2050 Plan) is the overarching Australian and Queensland government action plan to work with partners to protect and manage the Great Barrier Reef.
Launched in 2015, the plan was updated in July 2018 to include new actions to help the Reef recover and adapt in the face of a variable and changing climate.
The Queensland Government has already delivered a number of significant commitments under the Reef 2050 Plan including reducing the impacts of port development through the Sustainable Ports Development Act 2015, introducing net-free fishing zones, launching the Queensland Sustainable Fisheries Strategy and reducing the impact of vegetation clearing.
While climate change is the single, biggest threat to the Reef, there are a number of other pressures that need to be addressed to reduce the cumulative impacts on the Reef.
One of the most manageable impacts is human-induced pollutant run-off. The Reef 2050 Water Quality Improvement Plan, launched in July 2018, includes a diverse set of actions to improve water quality flowing from the catchments to the Reef.
The Reef 2050 Cumulative Impact Management and Net Benefit policies, released in July 2018, also provide guidance on the range of impacts affecting the Reef, the scale at which impacts are occurring and tools to assess and manage impacts. The Queensland Government is implementing a number of commitments to deliver these policies, outlined in the Cumulative Impact Management Policy: Queensland Government Implementation Plan.
The Reef 2050 Plan is under its first 5-yearly review in 2020, informed by scientific and technical sources including the Great Barrier Reef Outlook Report and the Reef Water Quality Report Cards. The Reef 2050 Plan is being revised to be a more strategic document focused on addressing the key threats to the Reef and adapting its management focus where necessary.
The Reef Water Quality Report Card measures progress towards the Reef 2050 Water Quality Improvement Plan targets using data from the Paddock to Reef program.
The Australian and Queensland governments released the most recent report card, the Reef Water Quality Report Card 2017 and 2018, which shows progress towards improving the quality of water flowing from the land to the Reef. Targets set for reductions of sediment and particulate nutrients in Cape York were met, largely due to improved pasture management from destocking cattle and controlling feral animals on the Queensland Government owned Springvale Station, and improved pasture and gully management through the Australian Government’s Reef Trust gully erosion project. The Burdekin region recorded the largest improvement in best practice nutrient management for sugarcane, with reductions delivered through a combination of Queensland Government Burdekin projects and the Australian Government Reef Trust projects.
Regional report cards are produced annually by Regional Report Card Partnerships to monitor and report on a range of regional social, economic and environmental conditions. There are 5 regional report card partnerships within the Great Barrier Reef region: Wet Tropics Waterways, Townsville Dry Tropics Partnership for Healthy Waters, Mackay–Whitsunday–Isaac Healthy Rivers to Reef Partnership, Fitzroy River Health Partnership and Gladstone Healthy Harbour Partnership. Each Partnership is a collaboration of organisations including the Australian and Queensland governments, local government; industry; ports; conservation groups; science, tourism, Indigenous and community groups.
As part of their monitoring programs, Regional Report Card Partnerships measure and assess environmental catchment conditions and ecological function of waters within and adjacent to the Great Barrier Reef. Apart from providing an understanding of current water quality and ecosystem health conditions in these regions and trends over time, report card results help inform the development of local management actions to improve waterway health.
Regional Report Card Partnerships use fine scale data to report on ecological condition of regional freshwater, estuarine, inshore marine habitats and offshore reefs. Whilst there are many common indicators monitored across all Partnership regions, some indicators are unique to particular Partnership regions, reflecting locally important issues and the initial rationale for forming those Partnerships. For more information on the range of indicators monitored by different Regional Report Card Partnerships, please refer to the Report Card Explainer.
Regional report cards also include social, economic and cultural indicators. The Gladstone Healthy Harbour Partnership and Mackay–Whitsunday–Isaac Healthy Rivers to Reef Partnership report cards have also included voluntary performance reports on the level of management practice associated with agriculture, urban, ports, heavy industry and aquaculture industries in their region. The assessment method for these indicators is under review and a new means of assessing urban water management practice is being development by the Queensland Government.
While Regional Report Card Partnerships rarely develop and oversee their own management response programs, partner organisations often do so as part of their environmental stewardship. The Mackay–Whitsunday–Isaac Healthy Rivers to Reef Partnership has summarised stewardship case study examples linked to its partner organisations for the 2018–19 financial year.
The Department of Environment and Science has continued to develop and refine contemporary decision-support tools to prioritise and guide conservation decisions, including investment in new protected areas and management of existing protected areas. These tools allow a strategic, evidence-based approach to:
- expanding Queensland’s Comprehensive, Adequate and Representative protected area system through the establishment of new public protected areas and privately protected areas
- identifying key values on national parks to guide priorities for investment in park management under the Values Based Management Framework
- identifying priorities for threatened species interventions
- assisting landholders of privately protected areas to implement effective management.
These tools provide a quantitative basis for improving biodiversity conservation in Queensland by prioritising investment and direct action to maximise biodiversity outcomes.
The Queensland Government has continued to work with stakeholders and invest in a range of initiatives in South East Queensland to improve water quality and catchment health. Management responses implemented under the South East Queensland ‘Investing in Our Environment for the Future’ Program include:
- water quality monitoring to support the annual South East Queensland report card, to track waterway health and identify issues for management action
- facilitation of horticultural research and development, as well as the delivery of the Horticultural Best Management Practice Program (Hort360), to reduce on-farm erosion and nutrient loss to improve water quality
- catchment improvement activities to restore riverbanks, protect agricultural land and reduce sediment flowing to waterways and Moreton Bay under the Healthy Catchments Program
- improvements to urban stormwater erosion and sediment control associated with construction and post-construction phases of urban development, which focusses management action on addressing the source of 35% of sediment emissions to South East Queensland’s waterways.
The South East Queensland ‘Investing in Our Environment for the Future’ Program continues to deliver multiple benefits to water quality and ecosystem health, agricultural land, the building and land development industry, and the community. In addition, the Queensland Government is working with the South East Queensland Council of Mayors and other signatories under the Resilient Rivers Initiative to ensure a coordinated approach to catchment management is implemented across the region.
The Statewide Landcover and Trees Study monitors Queensland's forests and woodlands to assess vegetation extent and clearing activities. It also provides satellite images, detailed spatial data and reports to help landholders, scientists, industry and government improve land management practices.
Nationally agreed assessment protocols record the status of key fish stocks in Queensland, assisting fishery managers to ensure that harvesting is at sustainable levels. Status assessments are updated every 2 years, with the next report due for publication in December 2020.
The Department of Environment and Science, through the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service (QPWS), manages more than 13 million hectares of protected area and forest estate across Queensland. QPWS is responsible for fire management on the protected area and forest estate that it manages.
QPWS fire management objectives are to:
- protect life, and critical infrastructure and assets, from the adverse impacts of fire
- maintain and restore the natural and cultural values on the protected area and forest estate
- protect the social and economic values of the protected area and forest estate and its neighbours.
QPWS has 2 State-wide targets for its fire management program (based on financial year):
- more than 5% of the QPWS managed estate has fuel loads reduced by planned burning, to reduce fire risk to life and property and protect biodiversity
- more than 90% of the scheduled one-quarter of the total area of Protection Zones is treated across the state per year to protect life and property.
The Strategic Fire Management Program (SFMP) provides 1 of the main funding sources for Rangers to deliver priority planned burn programs (including aerial incendiary programs) and the non-burn treatments of Protection Zones. The SFMP is 1 of QPWS’s critical programs for the on ground delivery of fire management as it works towards the fire management objectives and delivery of fire management targets.
The successful implementation of the priority planned burn program and the maintenance of Protection Zones are critical for reducing the risks of adverse impacts from bushfires when they occur.
The SFMP funding has averaged around $1.2 million per annum over the past 5 years.
The Department of Environment and Science, through the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service (QPWS), manages more than 13 million hectares of protected area and forest estate across Queensland. QPWS is responsible for pest management on the protected area and forest estate that it manages.
QPWS pest management objectives are to:
- protect natural and cultural values, including threatened species and ecosystems, by locally eradicating pests or significantly reducing impacts
- prevent the introduction or spread of any declared plant or animal onto the QPWS estate and
- undertake pest control programs in cooperation with neighbouring landholders, other State agencies and local government in accordance with the QPWS Good Neighbour Policy.
Pest plants and animals cause significant adverse impacts in Queensland. The Biosecurity Act 2014 places responsibility on land owners, including QPWS, to manage pests on the land and waters for which they have direct management responsibility.
The Strategic Pest Management Program (SPMP) provides one of the main funding sources for QPWS Rangers to deliver management of pest species threatening key values of the protected area and forest estate and to support QPWS custodial obligations (to work with neighbours and communities).
Since the inception of the SPMP in 2004, the funding has been used for a variety of critical conservation initiatives including management of cats and foxes to protect endangered species like the bilby, bridled nailtail wallaby and marine turtles.
The SPMP funding is allocated annually by QPWS and was $900,000 for the 2019/20 financial year.
In 2017, the Queensland Government approved a new Sustainable Fisheries Strategy, which details the government’s reform agenda for the next 10 years. It sets out clear targets to achieve by the years 2020 and 2027 and a range of actions to deliver on these. There are 33 actions across 10 reform areas.
Key actions include:
- additional monitoring and research (including new technologies)
- setting clear sustainable limits for each of fish stocks
- working groups and a Sustainable Fisheries Expert Panel to engage stakeholders
- establishing harvest strategies for all fisheries to set clear targets for fishery performance
- triggers for action, and clear decision rules for the actions that will be taken
- piloting regionally based fisheries management
- satellite tracking on all commercial fishing vessels
- helping facilitate industry-led structural adjustment to reduce the number of fishing licences and improve sustainability and profitability.
More than one-third of the actions in the Sustainable Fisheries Strategy have already been delivered including investment in more compliance officers, improved monitoring and research, improved engagement with stakeholders and more responsive decision making.
The Queensland Government, through the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service and Partnerships (QPWS&P) Branch, manages more than 13 million hectares of parks and forests across the state with a diverse range of natural, cultural, social and economic values and a complex range of management issues.
The Values-Based Management Framework (VBMF) is a contemporary management system that enables park managers, partnered with First Nations Peoples, to identify and prioritise the most important values of each park, forest, and reserve: the key values.
The VBMF uses an adaptive management cycle, providing strategic management direction through all phases of planning, prioritising, doing, monitoring, evaluating, and reporting.
QPWS&P seeks to balance the management of key values with its custodial obligations and finite state resources, applying flexible and proactive management actions to improve effectiveness over time. The VBMF program aims to enhance the capacity of QPWS&P as transparent, accountable, efficient, and effective protected area managers.
The 'Walking the landscape' framework integrates existing data with expert knowledge to develop a whole-of-system map linked to conceptual models showing how the environment functions. The method addresses a major criticism of broadscale mapping—the lack of integration of knowledge from local experts into datasets used by decision makers.
WetlandInfo is a first-stop-shop for wetland information in Queensland, providing a range of tools and resources to assist with the sustainable management of wetlands. It covers all aspects of wetlands management from mapping, policy and legislation, through monitoring and the provision of on-ground management resources.
The Wetlands in the Great Barrier Reef Catchments Management Strategy 2016–21 supports the updated Reef 2050 Long-Term Sustainability Plan July 2018 and the Reef 2050 Water Quality Improvement Plan 2017–2022, setting out a framework for the improved management of the wetlands of the Great Barrier Reef catchments.
It builds on the achievements of the Queensland Wetlands Program and recognises wetlands as vital to the health of the Great Barrier Reef ecosystem and its catchments.
This strategy includes 5 themes: improved information; planning; on-ground management; communication and education; and evaluation, review and improvement.
- Better understanding of Queensland’s Eastern Murray–Darling Basin River ecosystems
- Currawinya National Park – artesian springs protection project
- Greater protection for koala habitat areas in South East Queensland (SEQ)
- Mackay–Whitsunday–Isaac Healthy Rivers to Reef Partnership Stewardship Report
- Richmond birdwing butterfly project
- Using drones to capture crocodiles